Bill O’Reilly praises liberal comedian Jon Stewart for standing up for 9/11 first responders

June 12, 2019

Bill O’Reilly called liberal comedian and ex-debate rival Jon Stewart a “national hero” for his stirring defense of 9/11 first responders this week.

“Jon Stewart emerging as a national hero in trying to secure benefits for 9/11 responders with severe health problems,” O’Reilly tweeted Tuesday. “Stewart scolded some Congress people today. Well done.”

An incredible metaphor

Stewart, an advocate for first responders who suffer from lasting health problems due to their service amid terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, gave an impassioned rebuke of lawmakers who didn’t show up Tuesday for a congressional hearing to discuss the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which runs out of money in 2020. Joined by “sick and dying” victims and first responders, Stewart excoriated the negligence of lawmakers who use “never forget” as a cheap slogan and a substitute for action.

“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process of getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” Stewart said, at the opening of 10 minutes of emotional remarks. “Behind me a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.”

He went on: “Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution and you should be ashamed of yourselves, for those who aren’t here, but you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”

Called out

Stewart noted that there wasn’t a single absent member of the committee who failed to tweet a commemoration of 9/11. His voice at times quavering with emotion, Stewart hailed the heroism of first responders who rushed into action within five minutes of the attack, contrasting their courageous and speedy response with the craven indifference and inaction of Congress.

“They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs,” Stewart said. “Eighteen years later, do yours!”

The hearing was convened to discuss a bill to permanently authorize the 9/11 victim fund through 2090. The Justice Department announced in February that the fund was being depleted and that claimants would suffer cuts up to 70%.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the $7.4 billion fund, with 21,000 claims still pending.

Taking a stand

Stewart is a longtime advocate for 9/11 first responders who developed health problems from breathing in toxic debris after the World Trade Center collapse. The liberal comedian expressed anger that 9/11 survivors like retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez, a 9/11 first responder who has gone through 69 rounds of chemotherapy to treat liver cancer, still lack the assurance that the fund will remain permanently funded. Alvarez received a standing ovation for his testimony on behalf of 9/11 survivors fighting cancer.

“Of course I’d be willing to [talk to President Trump about the 9/11 fund],” Stewart said. “The question is, why do we have to? Why do we have to drag Lu Alvarez down here after 69 chemotherapies to make a case that is obvious? There’s no reason for it.”

He added: “I’m sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic. But I’m angry, and you should be, too. And they’re all angry as well. And they have every justification to be that way.”

Reaching across the aisle

Stewart left The Daily Show, which is now hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, in 2015. O’Reilly left his flagship Fox program in 2017 amid accusations of sexual harassment.

In its prime, Stewart’s program was to many liberals what The O’Reilly Factor was to conservatives. The two hosts squared off in televised debates as part of a long-running friendly rivalry.

But despite their ideological differences, some things, like taking care of American heroes and their families, are not up for debate. Shame on Congress for this display.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.