9/11 Fire Commissioner Blasts Jamaal Bowman as Imbecile for Peddling Conspiracy Theories

'I've been dealing with these imbeciles for over 20 years now,' Thomas Von Essen says of embattled congressman

Jamaal Bowman (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
February 21, 2024

The New York City fire commissioner who served during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks is blasting Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.) for suggesting the attacks were a false flag operation, with the commissioner saying he's dealt with "imbeciles" like Bowman "for over 20 years now."

As a middle school principal, Bowman from 2011 through 2014 maintained a personal blog, which he used to publish a poem that portrayed the Sept. 11 attacks as a false flag operation used by the U.S. government to wage war in the Middle East. The poem has reportedly "infuriated" first responders, including Thomas Von Essen, who served as FDNY fire commissioner from April 1996 to December 2001 and helped evacuate victims from the Twin Towers during the attacks.

"I've been dealing with these imbeciles for over 20 years now, where I've been accused of planting bombs every 10 floors in the Trade Center and things like that," Von Essen told Politico.

The rebuke spells trouble for Bowman, who is embroiled in a difficult primary campaign against Westchester County executive George Latimer. Bowman's poem "all but disqualified" the congressman from receiving endorsements from New York City law enforcement groups, according to Politico.

Other organizations have already dropped their support for Bowman. Left-wing group J Street last month rescinded its endorsement of the congressman, citing Bowman's praise of anti-Israel author Norman Finkelstein, who celebrated Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on the Jewish state as a "heroic resistance." Bowman introduced Finkelstein during a Jan. 14 panel discussion on the attack and spoke of watching the author's YouTube videos.

"I'm also a bit starstruck, because I watch them all the time on YouTube," Bowman said of Finkelstein and other anti-Israel panelists. "You have given me the knowledge on YouTube before even coming here."

Bowman did not return a request for comment. After his Sept. 11 conspiracy poem resurfaced last month, he told the Daily Beast that he "regrets" the blog post, which cites conspiratorial "documentary" videos such as Loose Change and Zeitgeist. The former contends that the U.S. government carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, while the latter posits that a cabal of international bankers control the world.

"2001/Planes used as missiles/Target: The Twin Towers," Bowman wrote in one stanza. "Later in the day/Building 7/Also Collaspsed [sic]/Hmm…/Multiple explosions/Heard before/And during the collapse/Hmm…"

"Allegedly/Two other planes/The Pentagon/Pennsylvania/Hijacked by terrorist/Minimal damage done/Minimal debris found/Hmmm…" Bowman continued. "We blamed Osama/Went to war in Iraq/Captured Saddam/Killed him. Bin Laden is Afghan/So we went to war there too."

This is not Bowman's first fire-department-related conflict.

In September, the Democrat pulled a fire alarm in a House office building while the lower chamber was voting on a bill to avoid a government shutdown. Security camera footage showed Bowman attempting to open a door leading out of the building before removing warning signs that identified the door as an "emergency exit." Bowman then pulled a fire alarm located next to the door and walked away.

In the aftermath of the incident, Bowman's office sent his fellow Democrats a list of talking points to defend him. One suggested Democrats deflect from the ordeal by calling Republicans "Nazis."

"Republicans need to instead focus their energy on the Nazi members of their party before anything else," the guidance said.