Jon Stewart, the popular former host of the late-night comedy program The Daily Show, criticized members of Congress for not attending a hearing on Tuesday on renewing funding for a program that provides health care to first responders who were sickened responding to the September 11 attacks.
Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said "sick and dying" first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a almost deserted dais.
"Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak and no one", Stewart said, pointing to a mostly empty dais.
Gerard Fitzgerald, the president of the Uniformed Firefighter Association of Greater New York and a 9/11 first responder, said they were given a five-year projected cost of medical benefits and funds are rapidly running out.
While testifying during a June 11, 2019 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jon Stewart (at lower left) turns away for a second from the empty Senators' chairs to look at the first responders in the audience.
A Congressional Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony today from 9/11 first responders today who have been largely ignored by the USA government for almost two decades.
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"There is not a person here, there is not an empty chair on that stage, that didn't tweet out, 'Never forget the heroes of 9/11, ' " Stewart said.
"I think the efforts of Jon Stewart, the responders, and survivors who have been working the halls are all coming to fruition", Ben Chevat, the head of 9/11 advocacy group Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act, told the Daily News. "Well, I'm here to make sure that you don't", Alvarez said to a room of loud applause.
Shortly before the hearing, Stewart was given the turnout coat of FDNY officer Ray Pfeifer, who died from a 9/11-related cancer two years ago.
Stewart slammed lawmakers for their "hypocrisy" by commending the heroes of September 11, but not taking care of them as they suffer, many from various cancers, and die. More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.
Stewart, the former host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, lambasted lawmakers for not showing up to the hearing, calling it "a stain on this institution". They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility! He's since become one of the most vocal advocates for 9/11 responders, traveling to the nation's capital on several occasions to use his bully pulpit to convince lawmakers to fund the the legislation. "Never forget their bravery, never forget what they did, what they gave to this country". "This fund is not a ticket to paradise, it's there to provide to our families when we aren't there", he said. "I can't recall being so moved by testimony as I was today", Johnson said.