Guest post by - Professor Robert Carmona-Borjas, CEO - Arcadia Foundation, organization dedicated to upholding human rights and defending democracy around the world
Healthcare executive Donato J. Tramuto has a reputation as a global health activist and philanthropist. He has authored three books, including one entitled The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results. He even has a heart-warming story of needing seven surgeries after losing his hearing at the age of seven.
His Tramuto Foundation [TramutoPorter Foundation since 2021] donated over a million dollars to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization headed by RFK’s daughter Kerry Kennedy. Kennedy bestowed Tramuto with a Ripple of Hope award for his charitable work in the global health field.
An even bigger star in Tramuto’s crown is serving as chairman of the board of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights Europe. His charitable work has also landed him seats on the executive leadership boards of the Boston University School of Public Health, the Brown University Healthcare Leadership Board, and the York Community Hospital Board of Trustees. He also chairs the Physicians Interactive Board of Directors - even though he is not a physician.
In 2020 Tramuto was named an Honorary Scholar in Residence at St. Joseph’s College in Maine and as an Executive in Residence at Promerica Health, Tidesmart Health, Concierge Health, Skyscape, and Sharecare. And just last year, the National Calendar Association awarded his foundation the honor of establishing National Compassionate Leadership Week.
He now reportedly wants to become Maine’s next governor.
But Donato Tramuto has a dirty little secret - His charitable reputation is built on stolen valor.
On September 10, 2001, Tramuto and his partner Jeffrey Porter had been entertaining their friends Daniel Brandhorst, Ronald Gamboa, and their 3-year-old son David. The next morning, the trio boarded United Flight 175 to return to their California home. Sadly, that plane was hijacked and flew into the South Tower at the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board.
Upon hearing of the tragedy, Tramuto began claiming that he would have been on the flight with his friends but for a last-minute toothache. Based on his tangential claim of “9/11 valor,” he created a charitable foundation, he says, to honor his friends.
Really? Then why did he not choose the name Brandhorst-Gamboa Foundation?
Tramuto still claims he was “almost a 9/11 victim” in spite of widely known facts that belie his claim. To start with, official FBI records do not include the name Donato Tramuto as a person who had booked, canceled, or fulfilled a seat for either of the two planes that hit the World Trade Center. Make no mistake - Tramuto may have had a toothache, but he was never going to board that plane.
He further claims that, despite the toothache, he would have boarded the plane had there been an available seat in First Class, but, alas, none were available, so he stayed at home in pain after canceling his ticket. The FBI records reveal this as untrue, and moreover a seating plan for United Flight 175 that day shows that First Class seats were indeed available.
Yet Tramuto continues to sell this whopper to everyone he meets. He has to – his “reputation” depends on people believing the lie.
You might think that a foundation created to honor 9/11 victims would focus on assisting surviving family members or raising awareness about violent extremists willing to kill the innocent. But instead, Tramuto sent buckets of money to the now-defunct Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo, New York, whose rector Father Joe Gatto was later accused of facilitating “a culture of sexual license” largely with Central American priesthood candidates. Perhaps some of them were recipients of Tramuto Foundation scholarships – which reportedly went to underprivileged students.
Tramuto hit it big, though, with his generosity with 9/11-inspired donations to RFK Human Rights, enough money to pay Kerry Kennedy’s huge salary for a couple of years. The glamour of having Tony Bennett, Robert De Niro, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Kerry and Ethel Kennedy at his award ceremony can provide quite a foundation for a political career.
But despite his repeated denials, the truth is that Tramuto has lied for 22 years about missing the deadly flight – and one cannot get fresh water from a poisoned well.
Tramuto’s ongoing dishonesty, which has played a major role in his success, suggests a deep-seated lack of respect for both the victims and the real heroes of 9/11, notably members of the Fire Department of New York who lost their health and even their lives responding to the carnage.
Donato Tramuto, in fact, owes a major apology to the families of 9/11 victims and to the people of America whom he has lied to in order to enhance his own reputation, power, and influence.
Worse, the institutions that have showered Tramuto with honorary doctorates, provided him with prestigious seats on their boards, and used his name to further enhance their own reputations and coffers owe the same apologies.
To Boston University, we ask, how do you reconcile your vision of “making the world healthier and more just” with the injustice of stolen valor attached to your institution? To Kerry Kennedy and her foundation, how does a man who has profited from the tragedy that befell others bring about “a more just and peaceful world”?
To other nonprofits across America and the world, would you stake your reputation on a man whose image as a philanthropist fighting the good fight depends on the lasting scars of 9/11? What would you do confronted with such strong evidence of intellectual fraud?
Perhaps Mr. Tramuto, once he admits his lie and apologizes to all whom he defrauded, can still be of great value to these institutions, even to the state of Maine.
But not now.
Not with the souls of nearly 3,000 dead (more died of injuries and diseases stemming from their post-crash rescue efforts) crying out, why have you used OUR names to enrich yourself?
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