Jon Stewart, a longtime defender of benefits for 9/11 first responders, went on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Monday night to respond to comments made earlier in the day by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We’ve never failed to address this issue and we will address it again. I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape, but we will take care of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund,” the Kentucky senator said on “Fox & Friends,” referencing Stewart’s explosive reaction to low attendance at a June 11 House Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill that would fund claims for the next 70 years.
As for the lack of representatives at the hearing, McConnell said, “Members have a lot of things going on at the same time, and it sounds to me like he’s looking for some way to take offense.”
Stewart — no newcomer to the cause of Sept. 11 first responders, having lobbied for them in 2010 and again in 2015 — jumped on those comments with vigor.
“I’m not bent out of shape. I’m fine,” Stewart said on “Colbert” after popping out from under the host’s desk. “I’m bent out of shape for them. These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great, trillions-of-dollars war on terror, and they’re still suffering and dying and in terrible need.”
Scientists who studied the effects of breathing the airborne debris that hung in the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have linked it to cancer, lung disease and asthma. And the number of victims has continued to grow since 2001.
The former “Daily Show” host then sarcastically apologized for bothering Congress, saying he “didn’t mean to interrupt them with their jobs,” and he accused McConnell of using 9/11 first responders for political purposes. Begging McConnell to meet with first responders, Stewart contended that the Senate majority leader could pass a standalone bill “tomorrow” to take care of the fund.
And he ended with a not-so-veiled threat.
“If you’re busy, I get it. Just understand, the next time we have a war, or you’re being robbed, or your house is on fire, and you make that desperate call for help, don’t get ‘bent out of shape’ if they show up at the last minute, with fewer people than you thought were going to pay attention, and don’t put it out, just sort of leave it there smoldering for another five years, because that’s how [things are] done here, mister,” Stewart said. “I’m sure they’ll put it out for good when they feel like getting around to it.”
The committee voted June 12 to pass the bill, which was introduced in the House in February. It has yet to go to a voice vote in the full House of Representatives, and then on to the Senate.
“There’s no way we won’t address this problem appropriately,” McConnell said on Fox. “We have in the past and we will again in the future.”
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