Jon Stewart Bursts over Expired Healthcare Benefits for 9/11 Responders

Jon Stewart Bursts over Expired Healthcare Benefits for 9/11 Responders

Jon Stewart graced the stage of his former digs, The Daily Show, for the first time since leaving in August after serving as host of the show for 16 years. His appearance had nothing to do with him, and laughter was kept at a minimum, however. The heartbreaking episode was to shine light on the thousands of 9/11 first responders who were left high and dry after their healthcare benefits expired at the end of September.

Stewart blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, explaining that he pushed a bill similar to the 2011 James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to benefit sick workers in his home state, but cut the 9/11 legislation from a recently-passed transportation bill because he didn’t get oil sales-related concessions.

“Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky doesn’t give a sh*t about anything but politics,” Stewart opined.

Stewart is fighting for Congress to pass legislation that would extend the Zadroga Act, thereby continuing to provide healthcare benefits for the approximately 33,000 heroic men and women who responded to Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 and in the days and weeks that followed.

“The only conclusions that I can draw is the people from Congress are not as good a people as the people who are first responders,” said Stewart.

To demonstrate his point, Stewart went to sit down with the first 4 responders he interviewed during a 2010 segment.

Sadly, 3 of the 4 chairs were empty. Two of the men were too sick to appear, and the third has since passed away.

“When we did the show five-and-a-half years ago, four men sat here,’ New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation founder Kenny Specht said as he sat with Stewart at the empty table.

Recently, Stewart and a group of 9/11 responders toured the halls of the U.S. Capitol and dropped into senators’ offices to urge the lawmakers to permanently extend the Zadroga Act. During their visit, they cornered Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and convinced him to sign on to a permanent bill.

Most of the lawmakers didn’t have time to speak to Stewart and the group of responders, some of whom were in wheelchairs due to the injuries and illnesses they suffered in the wake of the attacks.

Sen. McConnell had made a promise to responder advocate John Feal that a version of the bill would be attached to the government funding bill being worked on, although a similar pledge on paying for the measure was not offered.

On Thursday, Stewart expressed frustration with Sen. McConnell, saying he didn’t understand why congressional leaders were so reluctant to pass the bill, especially considering Sen. McConnell had backed similar programs for nuclear and coal workers.

“Honestly, if there were some sort of principled, pious reason, if he could say to me, ‘Oh, we just don’t do those types of bills, even for an exceptional case like 9/11,’ I guess I would at least have to respect whatever principle, however ignorant I may find it to be,” Stewart told HuffPost. “But that’s not the case.”

During Monday night’s show, Stewart referenced the San Bernardino shooting, saying:

“People forget, with all this talk now about terrorism from the World Trade Center to San Bernardino, the one common link to all of this is the first people on the scene were first responders. What message does it send to our first responders if once we’re done as a nation with them helping us that we forget about them? That’s unacceptable to me.”


[1] Daily Mail

[2] The Huffington Post

[3] New York Magazine

Featured image credit: Gary Cameron/Reuters