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Donald Trump claims he was at ground zero on 9-11 helping out. Was he?

I was down there also, but I'm not considering myself a first responder," Trump said. "But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you."

And also:

Everyone who helped clear the rubble ― and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit ― but I want to tell you: Those people were amazing,

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    Your question asks whether he was helping on September 11, but neither quote mentions him helping on that particular day. – Andrew Grimm Jul 31 at 22:08
  • Side note: This claim was, I believe, responsible for sparking the #LostTrumpHistory hashtag – Caius Jard Aug 1 at 13:07
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"I was down there also, but I'm not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you."

Likely false. (As elaborated in the linked video, watch it in whole for a strong rebuttal of the claim, and others.)

On 9/11, Donald Trump was sitting in his office in Trump Tower, and actually phoned in an interview.

"Everyone who helped clear the rubble ― and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit..."

If you look at the quotes closely, he does not actually claim much, though he makes it sound like much more. He admits to having been there for "a lot of time", that he "watched", and that he "helped a little bit". You could arguably say this for anyone who stood there, gawked a lot, and perhaps passed a water bottle or moved one shovel of dirt while posing for the cameras.

Only that not even a picture exists.

There is a total absence of evidence that Mr. Trump did any amount of helping worth mentioning, and statements from people like Richard Alles (at the time Battalion Chief of the FDNY), who was supervising search and rescue teams for two weeks after the attacks and said that he "spent many months there myself, and I never witnessed him".


User CL. posted a video link of an interview given by Mr. Trump. About this video, The Daily Mail had this to say (emphasis mine):

In that interview, he said he had 'hundreds of men inside working' and offered a colorful description, speaking about how five men had been found alive that day.

The claim was widely circulated on September 13, and was featured on a chyron under Trump as six men being rescued, but in fact was untrue. The last survivor was pulled from the rubble 27 hours after the planes hit.

So Mr. Trump was not, indeed, close enough to the actual rescue efforts to know the rumor for a rumor. The Daily Mail continues:

Trump therefore certainly came close to Ground Zero, although his interviews showed that if he did actually go to the site itself, he must have cleaned up before appearing on television; conditions there meant anyone who went near it was covered in dusty and debris.


The claim about "hundreds of men" is in turn challenged. Quoting the New York Times article,

Mr. O’Brien, the author, said the size of the Trump Organization at the time was “a little bit over a dozen people,” which would have made it impossible to send hundreds of people to participate in the relief effort. At the time, Mr. Trump had a large number of casino workers based in Atlantic City, but there is no documented evidence of him marshaling his resources to aid in the relief effort.

Snopes quotes Richard Alles (see above):

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” Alles told us by phone. “There would have been no need for that. Between police, fire and the construction crews, we had it all covered.”

John Feal, who was at Ground Zero as a construction demolition expert, is quoted that he...

...didn’t see evidence of hundreds of workers hired by Trump at the site, and added that by 15 September 2001 the area was on lock down. “There was no way anyone could get in and out of there without a [government-issued] badge,” he told us.

As for helping via donating money, Mr. Trump claimed that he donated $10,000 USD to the 9/11 fund, a claim which the office of New York City's Comptroller Scott Singer refuted.

Bottom line, we have zero evidence of Mr. Trump having "helped" other than his own words.

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    Trump has been a tabloid-level celebrity in New York since at least the 1980's. If he was there, its really hard to believe someone wouldn't have noticed. – T.E.D. Jul 30 at 18:07
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    Also worth noting that people who actually went down and helped got covered in rather unhealthy ash, and Trump is by multiple accounts (including his own) a germaphobe, who disinfects between every handshake, and has trouble with aids who even so much as cough in his presence. If he really was there, given that background, I'd be mighty impressed with his bravery overcoming that phobia. – T.E.D. Jul 30 at 18:28
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    And now this video has popped up. The reporter remarks that "his men" are also there, so his little bit of help might be that he has sent them. – CL. Jul 30 at 18:49
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    "helped" could very well mean he donated to say the Red Cross. And "a little bit" is impossible to quantify, for mr Trump, "a little bit" could have been several hundred thousand dollars for all we know. And yes, he was in New York so he was there, pretty close to it too. – jwenting Jul 31 at 4:48
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    Please remember the "Be Nice" rule and that your political opinions aren't welcome here. – Oddthinking Jul 31 at 6:20
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There seems to be some circumstantial evidence to back up his claims.

First, to be fair, neither of those quotes say "on 9/11". But he was at least in the area near ground zero in the days following 9/11.

Here is an interview he gave with a German reporter on 9/13: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoYXihwcp8c

And here's an interview he gave on the same day (note the tie) with NBC News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4ZfXOil1pk

In these interviews he praises the first responders and claims that he has deployed hundreds of employees to the area to work in some capacity related to the attacks, although he does not make it completely clear what sort of work they are supposed to be doing.

He could, of course, have been lying during these interviews, but this is a contemporary account of his activities in lower Manhattan two days after the attacks, a couple of years before he became involved with reality television and long before he sought public office.

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    "long before he sought public office". He's talked about it since the early 90s at least. Actually running a campaign, the presidency was his first. – fredsbend Jul 30 at 21:10
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    He ran as a candidate for the Reform Party between October 1999 and February 2000. – Avery Jul 30 at 21:20
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    Politifact dubbed the truth "not clear" on Trump's claim of paying hundreds of workers to help in search-and-rescue efforts in the aftermath of 911 in their March 13, 2019 piece at politifact.com/facebook-fact-checks/article/2019/mar/13/… One does wonder whether Trump's New York offices even could have had hundreds of employees who could have helped. If he was paying contractors, surely there would be receipts? – jeffronicus Jul 30 at 21:36
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    Contemporary statements are only useful as evidence if they're given by someone else credible, or if they prove contradictory. Contemporary self-statements like this only show he's kept his story straight, which he often cannot manage. In addition, "they had nothing to gain" is not evidence when evaluating claims; the Cottingley Fairy Hoax is a prime example. Even so, Trump has been a self-promoter making dubious claims long before he was a TV star or candidate. – Schwern Jul 30 at 22:29
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    Trump owned the 2nd tallest building in NYC on Wall Street, about 7 blocks from the WTC. He had hundreds of employees working in that building. He said his employees voluntarily helped out, especially in the moments after the collapse but also in the days that followed. Did Trump pay those employees for their time volunteering? Unknown, but quite possible especially if those employees were on salary. Did Trump fire any employees who voluntarily helped out instead of report to work. Absolutely not. Seems like a clear case that Trump was most certainly involved and helped out in some way. – Dunk Jul 31 at 23:14
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Snopes has a picture of Trump near ground zero 7 days after the attacks, so Trump's core claim from this speech -- that he was there -- is true. Though as Snopes points out, very little about what he actually did there is verifiable.

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    Snopes has a picture taken "at the New York Stock exchange", which is several blocks from Ground Zero. That same Snopes article continues to go into some detail of how Trumps words on how he had "a lot of men down here" are dubious... thanks for the sources, I'll add those to my answer. ;-) – DevSolar Jul 31 at 13:53
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    The fact that he was in NY at some point in September 2001 does not verify his claim. – Anush Jul 31 at 17:37
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    @Anush I visited NYC in January 2002. We went down to Wall St, it was an abandoned mess. The destruction of the towers flooded the subways and streets with debris all the way down Broadway to Battery Park. Your assertion is silly. The fact that he was at Wall Street verifies he was down there and it’s hard to believe he didn’t go to ground zero. – Rob Rodriguez Aug 1 at 1:56
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    @RobRodriguez Part of the claim (implied in the first quote; specifically stated in the second) is that he helped, though. – ceejayoz Aug 1 at 14:19
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    @RobRodriguez it's very simple to believe he didn't go to ground zero. For starters, it was an active disaster and cleanup area filled with noxious chemicals in the air. You weren't allowed on the site if you weren't FDNY/NYPD/PA/Cleanup and had a badge. Ground zero wasn't a tourist destination. The NYSE was open for business a week later. This photo was taken on September 18th, a day after the NYSE opened back up. – DenisS Aug 1 at 14:27
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The two videos¹ that @BeReasonable cited show that Donald Trump was there on or before the thirteenth.

  • NBC News interview, near the WTC rubble, September 13, 2001, talking about his having "hundreds of men working inside".

  • German News interview, near Ground Zero, September 13, 2001, talking about having been to Ground Zero, having 100 men working on the site, with another 125 coming.

They neither prove nor refute his claim that he had employees there (but note that neither journalist had reason to challenge it).  They also neither support nor refute his recent claim that he “spent a lot of time” there.

  • I am puzzled by the difference in his speaking style in those videos, compared to his style since 2016. – WGroleau Aug 2 at 14:44
  • What does this answer add that the other answers haven't already covered, better? – Oddthinking Aug 2 at 14:56
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    It is an attempt to balance out all the "answers" and comments that insist or imply he was lying, without hiding the point in verbosity. – WGroleau Aug 2 at 15:17

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