This past weekend, Donald Trump finally visited the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan with his wife, Melania. Per Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, members of media were confined to a van while Trump toured the museum and were only given a photo afterwards:
Reporters who were invited late on Friday to join Mr. Trump for the museum visit, which was not on his schedule, were kept in a media van as he entered the museum. An aide said he would speak with reporters afterward, but Mr. Trump then decided against it. His aides sent out a photo of the Trumps inside the museum about 90 minutes later, along with a statement saying that the rebuilding of ground zero was “what ‘New York values’ are really about.”
Trump then took to Twitter to hashtag his visit with the now-famous #NewYorkValues, a shot at Ted Cruz’s comments from January regarding the perceived difference in social and political values between the New York elite — to which Trump belongs — and that useless chunk of land to its west known as the rest of the country. (I criticized Cruz’s comments at the time.)
Trump’s sudden interest in the 9/11 Memorial comes on the eve of the New York GOP primary. Given Trump’s history with the WTC site, the current One World Trade Freedom Tower, and his past comments on the Twin Towers themselves, the visit appears to be nothing more than another photo op for him to use against his political opponents rather than an honest tribute to those lost in lower Manhattan that day.
In the almost five years since the memorial opened, Trump has not once managed to visit the site, this despite owning a building five blocks away on Wall Street. Choosing not to visit the World Trade Center site isn’t something that should be held against Trump or any other New Yorker. I personally know New Yorkers who try to avoid it at all costs. Each has his own views on how best to mourn and remember September 11th. But Trump’s using his first-ever visit as a political attack against Ted Cruz is completely shameful.
Consider: In 2005, while giving an interview to Chris Matthews on Hardball, Trump called the plans for the renovated WTC site “disgusting.” He went as far as to say if the Freedom Tower proposal went ahead as planned, “the terrorists win.”
Trump, whose own plans for the site were rejected by the city and planning commission, later called the site “a junkyard.” “You take a look at the roofs of those buildings, they’re all at different angles, different shapes,” he said. “It is the worst pile of crap architecture I have ever seen in my life.”
And it wasn’t just the Twin Towers’ replacement that Trump seemed to dislike.
One week after the fall of the buildings, Trump told the New York Post, “To be blunt, they were not ‘great’ buildings . . . . They only became great upon their demise last Tuesday.”
In what may have been his only poignant debate moment of the entire campaign season, Trump evoked memories of the towers’ collapse and the efforts of New York City first responders and cleanup crew in response to Ted Cruz’s elaboration of his “New York Values” comment. But, Trump being Trump, he has since has managed to take a moment of real emotion and turn it into an exploitive mangled wreck in subsequent tweets and Instagram ads on the heels of his worst primary loss yet in Wisconsin.
When it was reported that Trump made a personal donation of $100,000 to the museum (his first and only) during his visit, Trump told Judge Jeanine Pierro in an appearance on her Fox News show that “I just felt like doing it because I heard [Cruz] disparaging New York, and I just thought it would be the thing to do.” That it took facing Ted Cruz in a political primary to finally get one of New York’s most famous citizens to financially and personally support the 9/11 memorial is outrageous.