Jul 29, 2019

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon. Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 655 words, a 3 minute read.

Situational awareness: Fifty-two inmates killed in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated — (WashPost)

1 big thing: Jon Stewart's 9/11 crusade

Jon Stewart holds up the jacket of first responder Ray Pfeifer before testifying at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in June. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The 9/11 first responders will no longer need to swarm Congress every 5 years to extend their benefits, and it's thanks largely to the much-publicized work of Jon Stewart and the lesser-known role of John Feal.

Why it matters: There are 95,320 members enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, which was set up to help those with medical conditions linked to the attacks.

  • While funding was supposed to last into 2020, the program had already been running dry with some victims getting reduced checks earlier this year, The Daily Beast reported.
  • The extension will fund payments through the 2092 fiscal year.

The big picture: It's very hard to move Congress to do anything fast these days. The success of Stewart, Feal and others wasn't just a feel good example of going viral for the right reasons — it conveyed a smart strategy to get the right message to the right people.

  • 2001: Stewart memorably talked about the attacks on "The Daily Show."
  • 2010: Stewart hosted first responders on "The Daily Show" to successfully push for a formal extension to the 9/11 victims fund. It narrowly passed.
  • 2015: Stewart and Feal were interviewed by Fox News' Shepard Smith. Feal told Smith: "Leadership on the Republican Party has always been against this."

Fast forward to 2019, via Axios' Rashaan Ayesh:

  • June 11: Stewart rebukes congressional members for their absence during a hearing about the importance of the fund. He called their absences "an embarrassment to the country, and it is a stain on this institution."
  • June 20: Retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez appeared on Smith's program from hospice care: "9/11 happened, we got called down. It’s my job as an NYPD detective to respond to emergencies. ... I’m no one special, and I did what all the other guys did. Now we are paying the price for it."
  • Several weeks later: Feal met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who promised to pass the bill before the August recess. "He got watery-eyed. His eyes filled with water. I don’t know if there is a soul in there, but he’s made up of water just like everybody else," Feal told The Daily Beast.
  • July 17: Stewart went on Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier" to call out Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for voting against the victims fund, but supporting Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts that added billions to the national deficit.
  • July 23: The Senate passes the bill, sending it to Trump's desk.
  • July 23: Feal thanks Fox News for all the airtime to get the message out: "Thank you for having me. Thank you to Fox, everybody at Fox News. You guys have been amazing. I can’t thank you enough. And you guys truly helped us get here."

Fox told Axios in a statement: "Fox News is pleased to have played a small part in amplifying the voices of the 9/11 heroes. We all owe those first responders an incalculable and unpayable debt, and we are grateful Washington has acted in a bipartisan way to alleviate some of their pain, by permanently authorizing the Victim Compensation Fund."

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump implausibly claimed today, signing the 9/11 first responders extension:

  • "I was down there also, but I'm not considering myself a first responder. But I was down there. I spent a lot of time down there with you."
2. What you missed
  1. Two U.S. service members stationed in Afghanistan were killed in action today, bringing this year's fatality count to 14. Go deeper.
  2. New York has decriminalized marijuana use. Go deeper.
  3. Uber is laying off 400 employees from its marketing team across 75 offices, the company told the NYT. Before the cuts, it had about 1,200 marketing employees.
  4. Maryland's GOP Gov. Larry Hogan condemned Trump's attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore, calling the president's tweets "outrageous and inappropriate." Go deeper.
  5. The U.S. share of global artificial intelligence startup funding deals has fallen to less than half the world's total. Chart.
3. 1 fun thing

Courtesy Warner Brothers

Coming Sept. 7: A "Friends" pop up in NYC celebrating the show's 25th anniversary, per The Hollywood Reporter.

  • The space "will give visitors a chance to revisit memorable settings like Chandler and Joey's recliners and foosball table; Monica and Rachel's purple door; the narrow stairwell through which Ross, Chandler and Rachel struggled to maneuver a sofa despite multiple "pivots"; a re-created Central Perk, orange couch and all; and even an area inspired by the fountain from the opening credits."
  • The experience runs through Oct. 6.
Mike Allen