— Trump, remarks at a campaign rally in Murphysboro, Ill., Oct. 27
“Remember the teams, the Yankees, George Steinbrenner. He said we have got to play, even if nobody comes, nobody shows up, we have got to play.”
— Trump, a few minutes later
This fact check has been updated
Memories are fallible, even for presidents. This is why they are supposed to have staffs who help make sure they stick to the facts and, if they get it wrong, make sure that the misstatements are corrected.
President Trump is not an ordinary president, and apparently he does not have a typical staff. So, in an effort to justify holding a campaign rally after 11 people at a synagogue were gunned down in Pittsburgh, the president twice referenced an event that did not happen.
This will be a very short fact check.
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, struck at the heart of New York’s financial district, destroying the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Is it possible that the New York Stock Exchange, located just blocks away, quickly reopened the next day?
The NYSE and even the over-the-counter Nasdaq exchange never opened for trading the morning of the attacks and were closed until Sept. 17 — the longest shutdown since 1933. Other stock markets around the world were closed as well. It’s easy to figure this out using Google. There’s even a whole Wikipedia page.
The market plunged 7 percent that day, but the fact that things went smoothly was hailed as an achievement.
Just two years ago, the Wall Street Journal celebrated the reopening on its 15th anniversary with the headline: “9/17/01: Wall Street’s Proudest Day. A Look Back on the Reopening.”
“The reopening had both financial and psychological significance for the country,” the WSJ said. “In fact, it was Wall Street’s proudest day. The 9/11 attacks in New York were just blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, and getting the markets to reopen was a round-the-clock effort, even as workers grieved for those who died. The market closure itself was the longest in nearly 70 years, and it was certain that there would be heavy trading and a stock drop when trading resumed.”
While Trump appeared to remember “Dick Russell, a friend of mine, great guy,” as reopening the exchange, it was actually Dick Grasso, at the time chief executive of the NYSE. Grasso appeared on Fox News just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 11, to recall the reopening. Dick Russell was a senator from Georgia, known as a fierce defender of segregation. (Update: When we listened to the video the night of the speech, it sounded like “Russell,” which was also how it was rendered in the transcript. But some readers said it sounded like “Grasso” to them. Listening to it again, that’s possible but it’s hard to tell with crowd noise. But it certainly makes more sense for Trump to have said Grasso. We have updated the transcript to say Grasso.)
Trump also implied that baseball did not pause for the attacks but started playing games as soon as possible. But the games were canceled that night — and then for the rest of the week. Professional baseball also did not start up again until six days later, on Sept. 17. The whole baseball season was pushed back a week.
We asked the White House for an explanation but did not get a response.
The Pinocchio Test
There are many reasons the president might have wanted to have continued with a campaign rally. But conjuring up a phony story about the stock exchanges and baseball after the Sept. 11 attacks is not a valid one. We can possibly understand one mistake, but not that it was repeated hours later. Is there no one on his staff who will dare tell him that his memory is faulty?
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