Despite pleas from the surviving families of 9/11 victims to former President Donald Trump, begging him to cancel a planned Saudi-backed golf event just 50 miles from Ground Zero—a memorial on the location where the World Trade Center (WTC) South Towers once stood—the tournament will go on.
National chair of 9/11 Families United, Terry Strada, tells CBS News, "For us, 9/11 never feels like 20 years. It feels like it's present. … Twenty years later, I am appalled to be standing here speaking about professional golfers' offensive, disrespectful, and hurtful participation in 'sportswashing.'"
The term “sportswashing” refers to Saudi Arabia’s attempts to obscure its dismal record on human rights through extravagant, high-profile sporting events.
Strada and other families are planning to protest the LIV Golf tournament, which opens on Friday. The event takes place at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
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According to Newsweek, Trump was asked Thursday about the 9/11 families’ plans to protest the LIV Golf event. The former president told an ESPN reporter, “Nobody’s gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately.”
He added that the people who committed the attack on 9/11 were “maniacs” and that they did a “horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world… But I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people that are out here today, and we're gonna have a lot of fun, and we're going to celebrate. Money's going to charity—a lot of money's going to charity," he said.
The group 9/11 Justice sent a letter to Trump, CBS News reports, requesting that the former president at least meet to discuss their concerns. The group says they received a response from one of Trump’s aides, alleging that a contract obligates the Trump National Golf Club to move forward with the tournament as planned.
John Bruce Eagleson, founder of 9/11 Justice and who lost his father along with the 2,996 others who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, said that a Trump representative said, "9/11 is really near and dear to [Trump], and it’s so important to him he is going to remember everyone who signed the letter, and he personally told [the aide] to reach out.”
But Monday, Trump gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, implying he had no idea what the 9/11 families were talking about.
“I don’t know much about the 9/11 families, I don’t know what is the relationship to this, and their very strong feelings, and I can understand their feelings,” he said. “I can’t really comment on that because I don’t know exactly what they’re saying, and what they’re saying who did what.”
According to the New York Post, Trump was seen Wednesday night living it up in New York City at the official LIV Golf party. And the twice-impeached, one-term former president has a scheduled round of golf ahead of the tournament with a group of professional golfers on Thursday.
The tournament is sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Funds, according to the Post. Strada calls the event “a multibillion-dollar public relations stunt bought and paid for by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
The 9/11 families point to recently released documents from the FBI showing Saudi support of the 9/11 hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who attacked the two WTC Towers and the Pentagon, and attempted a failed fourth attack that ended in a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, were Saudi nationals.
Despite criticism of the event, Trump told LIV golfers to “take the money now.”
"All of those golfers that remain 'loyal' to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big 'thank you' from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year," Trump wrote (as presented) on Truth Social Monday, CNN reports.
Matthew Bocchi, who lost his father on 9/11, told CBS News: “We've had every president since 9/11 evade holding the kingdom responsible for their role in the attacks on September 11th, and we believe they need to be held accountable for murdering our loved ones and injuring countless others.”
John Bruce Eagleson, who lost his father along with the 2,996 others who died in the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, tells CNN that the choice to host the LIV Golf tournament is "unconscionable.” Specifically, the course itself is "in the backyard of where 750 New Jersey residents were murdered."
"The former President correctly speculated in 2016 that Saudi Arabia knocked down the Towers, and now the FBI has released the documents to prove him right… yet he is choosing money over America. So much for America First. A sad day,” Eagleson told CNN.
CBS News reports that the 9/11 families have also reached out to President Joe Biden for support.
Meanwhile, LIV Golf released a statement about the event and its controversy. That letter reads, in part: "These families have our deepest sympathy. While some may not agree, we believe golf is a force for good around the world.”
Thursday, Bob Costas gave an interview to CNN and did not hold back.
“Some 700 plus of the victims on 9/11, 21 years ago, were from New Jersey, some of them from the Bedminster area.
“So the 9/11 families are very hurt about this, very upset, there will be protests outside the grounds, but if we learned anything about Donald Trump, which it shouldn’t have taken very long to learn, is that he doesn’t care about any principle, including American democracy or any person, he cares about nothing other than his own perceived self-interests.
“And then there’s the aspect of grievance and revenge. He was upset because the PGA pulled out following Jan. 6 the last year, following those events, they pulled the PGA tournament from the Bedminster course. So this is an element of grievance on his part because, as we all know, he is, after all, the most persecuted man in American history and he’s qualified to say that because he’s a scholar of history,” Costas said.