Fact Check

Trump Quietly Paid Mortgage of Slain NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller?

While it doesn't appear as though Donald Trump himself ever made this claim, some of his loudest online supporters have.

Published April 1, 2024

 (J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Image Via J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images
Claim:
Donald Trump paid off the mortgage of Jonathan Diller, an NYPD police officer who was killed in the line of duty, to support his widow and son.
Context

Donald Trump never claimed to have paid off the mortgage. Diller's mortgage was paid by the nonprofit organization Tunnel to Towers.

Beginning on March 26, 2024, copy-and-pasted claims emerged online that former U.S. President Trump had paid off the mortgage of a police officer who had recently been shot and killed in the line of duty, Jonathan Diller. He had been killed the day prior, The Associated Press reported, when an assailant shot him below his bulletproof vest while he approached an illegally parked car. 

 

(Telegram)

One of the earliest iterations of the claim Snopes can identify came from a well-followed pro-Trump account on the social media platform Telegram called Professor Patriot. The text was then copied to other platforms, including Facebook. Like most copypasta, the claim presented is composed primarily of allegedly secondhand information. Professor Patriot introduced the claim this way: 

Hey guys, I got this couple minutes ago from my buddy I shoot with.  This is in reference to the NYPD officer shot yesterday in Queens. Kinda of stuff that Donald will never talk about and I guarantee he was in touch with tunnel to towers and probably donated the money to them so they get the credit.  Thought it should be shared.  Below is his message his buddy in long island sent him.

What followed was allegedly a story from Professor Patriot's shooting buddy, whose neighbor was allegedly the funeral director involved in Diller's wake:

My neighbor is a funeral director and is doing the wake for the NYPD cop who was killed yesterday. He met with the widow and the Department this morning. While she was in his office, Pat Hendry the [Police Benevolent Association] president says excuse me, she has to take this call. It was Donald Trump. A few minutes after that she got a call from the head of Tunnel to Towers, they are paying her mortgage off.

Tunnel to Towers, founded by the brother of a New York firefighter who died on 9/11, "pays off the mortgages for the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty, pass away from 9/11-related illnesses, and leave behind young children," according to its website.

It bears highlighting that the story attributed to the Professor Patriot's shooting buddy does not actually claim Trump paid off the Diller family's mortgage or even that Trump made that claim. That was an assumption added by Professor Patriot, an anonymous Telegram account.

By March 27, 2024, a second variation of the "funeral director claim" appeared on Facebook: 

(Facebook)

In this telling, the chain of information is even longer. It relays information allegedly from the wife of an officer who was acting as a funeral escort for the widow. That officer wasn't present for the event, but heard the rumor from his superior. While ostensibly a second confirmation of the story, its text is identical in several key aspects, suggesting it represents a retelling of the earlier rumor: 

[REDACTED]'s husband was assigned to the ceremonial unit, his old partner still is and he was acting as an escort for the Officers family at Massapequa Funeral Home. His Lieutenant is with the family inside the Funeral home along with the PBA President. ....PBA President interrupts the Funeral Director and the wife and says "she has to take this phone call". It was Donald Trump. 

Trump told her he's making a donation to the Tunnel to Towers foundation and that the donation was to cover the remainder of her mortgage.  The Tunnels to Tower foundation called the PBA president right after, still at Massapequa Funeral home, confirming. 

On March 28, 2024, Tunnel to Towers announced that it would be paying off Diller's mortgage. Because the above rumors contain knowledge of the donation before it was made public, it is entirely possible that some version of events occurred in which Trump called Diller's widow with news of the Tunnels to Tower foundation's gift, as Trump has been associated with the charity in the past.

The claim reached a larger audience when Trump attended Diller's wake on March 29, 2024. During coverage of that event on Steve Bannon's Real America's Voice News, host David Zere repeated what appears to be the same claim from social media:

Trump's inside the funeral home right now. But the story here is that,⁣ you know, Trump gave a donation to Tunnel to Towers, I believe ⁣he paid off the mortgage and had a phone call with the family.

Zere, however, later walked this claim back on X (formerly Twitter), saying he might have been mistaken: 

I may have been mistaken about Trump donating the money to Tunnel and Towers for the Diller family.  I had several people approach me [sic] this was the case.  I apologize if I reported misinformation.  But it was a special day with Trump meeting with the Diller Family! 

Snopes is not aware that Trump himself has taken any credit for the Diller donation. A spokesperson for Trump's 2024 campaign did not immediately respond to our request for comment. Tunnel to Towers, for its part, denied that Trump had any communication with the group regarding Diller, according to local outlet Greater Long Island:

While social media posts circulating online stating former President Trump helped pay off the mortgage, a spokesperson for Tunnel to Towers said the foundation has not been in touch with President Trump or his team on this matter.

Because Trump never publicly claimed to have anything to do with making the Tunnels to Towers donation happen, because that rumor originated online based largely on second- and thirdhand information, and because Tunnel to Towers denied Trump's involvement, the claim is "False."

Sources

Professor Patriot. 26 Mar. 2024, https://t.me/professor_patriot_official/15708.

"Trump Attends Wake of Slain New York Officer, Calls for 'law and Order,' to Show Contrast with Biden." AP News, 28 Mar. 2024, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-nypd-officer-killed-wake-funeral-e91744c40c4513ead88caa247ab9916e.

Trump Quietly Pays off Mortgage of Slain NYPD Officer's Family... Wow. rumble.com, https://rumble.com/v4m3q80-trump-quietly-pays-off-mortgage-of-slain-nypd-officers-family...-wow.html. Accessed 1 Apr. 2024.

"Tunnel to Towers Foundation Stands with Slain NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller's Family." Tunnel to Towers Foundation, 28 Mar. 2024, https://t2t.org/tunnel-to-towers-foundation-stands-with-slain-nypd-officer-jonathan-dillers-family/.

"Tunnel to Towers to Pay off Mortgage of Slain NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller." Greater Long Island, 28 Mar. 2024, https://greaterlongisland.com/tunnel-to-towers-to-pay-off-mortgage-of-slain-nypd-officer-jonathan-diller/.

Tunnels to Towers Foundation | Tunnel to Towers Foundation Has Pledged $3 Million to Support Frontline Healthcare Workers by Providing Meals, PPE, and Financial Relief in the Event... | By The Trump White House ArchivedFacebook. www.facebook.com, https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse45/videos/tunnels-to-towers-foundation/700180964059443/. Accessed 1 Apr. 2024.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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