In his emotional testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Tuesday, Stewart skewered members of Congress, at times breaking down in tears, shouting at the lawmakers for their lack of concern for the VCF, calling them "shameful". "There is not an empty chair on that stage that didn't tweet out "Never forget the heroes of 9/11". well, here they are!"
In recent years, more and more 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with illnesses that have been linked to their participation in rescue and recovery efforts following the September 11 attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Shameful. It's an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution". More than $5 billion USA in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion USA fund, with about 21,000 claims pending. According to CBS News, a "little over half of the 14-member subcommittee members were present, mostly Democrats". "You should be ashamed of yourselves". The legislation has been pushed for by NY politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. 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. "Accountability appears to not be something that occurs in this chamber".
"I'm pretty sure what's going to happen five years from now, more of these men and women are going to get sick and they are going to die and I am awfully exhausted of hearing that it's a 9/11 NY issue", Stewart said. Why this bill isn't unanimous consent and a stand-alone issue is beyond my comprehension.
After a almost five-minute-long tirade against congresssional inaction on the issue, the audience in the hearing room gave the comedian a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, Stewart's testimony fell on deaf ears, largely due to the fact that many Congress members didn't even bother to show up for it.
Stewart's rant came on the heels of testimony from Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD detective who had responded to the attacks on September 11, 2001. He is set to begin his 69th round of chemotherapy on Wednesday to treat the cancer he was diagnosed with after the World Trade Center fell. Frail and struggling at times to speak, Alvarez said he came to Capitol Hill on behalf of those who will get ill later and may get little or no aid from the fund.
Jimmy Kimmel, a popular comedian and host of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", praised Stewart on Twitter, writing: "thank you Jon Stewart, for making sure "never forget" isn't just a nice-sounding slogan".
He admitted, "I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic".