Jon Stewart Says Mitch McConnell Has Only Supported 9/11 Victims Fund After Lobbying And Public Shaming

Former talk show host Jon Stewart took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to task on Sunday, saying McConnell has not supported the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund without being the target of lobbyists or public ridicule.

"In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010," Stewart said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, referencing the titular character from Herman Melville's, Moby Dick.

"In 2010 - and you know, this brings up something, I think the cynicism in Washington also causes this situation to be so emotional. They asked Mitch McConnell about the testimony [last week] after it was done, and he said 'oh the, uh, gosh.' I think he said the word gosh. 'Gosh we haven't looked at that in a while, but we will look at it, and I'm sure we'll deal with it as compassionately as we have in the past," Stewart said. "But I want to make it clear that this has never been dealt with compassionately by Senator McConnell. He has always held out until the very last minute, and only then, under intense lobbying and public shaming, has he even deigned to move on it."

Stewart has long been an advocate for the fund, having devoted an episode of The Daily Show to it in 2010 and calling for accessible health care for first responders who answered the call on September 11, 2001 by protecting people in New York City, Washington D.C and Shanksville, Pennslyvania.

Stewart's advocacy extended to a trip to Washington D.C. last week where his remarks to members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties quickly gained national attention as Stewart blasted committee members for skipping out on the hearing.

According to a report from CBS News, Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Chair of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention at Hofstra's School of Medicine, told the committee that over 11,000 types of cancer have been reported since September 11, 2001.

Stewart and several first responders traveled to the Capitol to ask that Congress approve money for the Victims Fund through 2090, thereby eliminating the need for people to advocate for additional money every four or five years, which is the current set up. Currently, the Victims Fund is set to stop taking claims in 2020 and has already announced that claims will be cut by as much as 70 percent given an increase in applications and a lack of avaliable funding.

"We cannot make these individuals continue to live in the agonizing uncertanity of not knowing that these programs will be extended and that they will be able to move on with their lives," Stewart said.

Stewart also said that seven first responders had died in the past week.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Stewart added that the bill isn't about partisanship, and that some Republicans are in support of it. However, Stewart said, McConnell has used the bill to advance other agendas, such as making tax cuts implemented by the administration of former President George W. Bush in 2010 and "extract some promises on oil imports" by tying up the fund with a transportation bill in 2015.

Wallace then brought up criticism voiced by some Republican senators who said that the bill should not be given open-ended funding and that states should be responsible for supporting victims rather than the federal government.

"It should be open-ended because cancer doesn't have an expiration date on it," Stewart said after Wallace asked for his reaction to the criticism. "The idea that this is a state issue ....9/11 was - you know, it would be like after Pearl Harbor saying 'you know what? We're not gonna do anything for people in Pearl Harbor because that's a Hawaii issue.' This was an attack on America, as I said in the meeting, they didn't shout 'death to Tribeca,' and to try and push this off as a New York issue - and I think they do that because they believe New York is reliably liberal and Democratic and it's not as important to them."

"Not all Republicans oppose this, but everyone who has opposed it is a Republican and it's unacceptable," Stewart added. "They've done it now for years."

Jon Stewart
Former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill on June 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. The fund provides financial assistance to responders, victims and their families who require medical care related to health issues they suffered in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Getty/Zach Gibson