July 12th, 2007
11:33 AM ET
3 years ago

NYC firefighters slam Giuliani

Giuliani’s campaign says the former mayor has always supported firefighters.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The country's largest U.S. firefighters union Wednesday blasted former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's performance in the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, aiming a blow at the cornerstone of Giuliani's presidential campaign.
Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is under attack by firefighters questioning his 9/11 record.

"Mayor Giuliani twisted the heroism of my brother to suit his own mistakes of that day," Rosaleen Tallon, whose brother Sean was killed in the attack, said in a video the International Association of Fire Fighters released on its Web site.

Survivors of the attack and relatives of some of those who died in the twin towers blamed Giuliani for a lack of radio gear they said could have saved the lives of more than 100 firefighters who had been ordered to evacuate the north tower before it collapsed.

And they criticized Giuliani for placing his emergency command center in the World Trade Center complex before the attacks, after the towers had been the target of a previous bombing in 1993.

"He's not a leader," said retired Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose son was killed in the 2001 attack. "He's running on 9/11, and it's all a fallacy."

Giuliani's campaign responded by accusing the union of being a partisan group, with a history of supporting Democrats. The campaign released a statement from a retired firefighter, Lee Ielpi, who accused IAFF leaders of being "clearly out of step with their membership."

"In 2008, I expect these same union bosses to endorse Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards, so today's comments are just a first step in that process," Ielpi said. "Fortunately, rank-and-file firefighters know the difference between politics and leadership."

The 13-minute video is reminiscent of the television ads run by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a Republican-backed group that accused Sen. John Kerry of lying to obtain combat decorations in Vietnam during Kerry's 2004 Democratic presidential campaign. Though contradicted by Navy records and Kerry's former crewmates, the group's allegations damaged a pillar of the Massachusetts senator's presidential bid - his background as a decorated Navy officer.

The al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington left nearly 3,000 dead. Most of that toll came from the destruction of the World Trade Center, where 2,750 people - including 343 firefighters - were killed.

At the time, Giuliani was nearing the end of his second term as mayor, could not run again and had given up a planned Senate campaign amid a battle with prostate cancer and a messy divorce. His efforts to rally New Yorkers in the aftermath of that bloody day revived his public stature and led admirers to dub him "America's mayor."

The IAFF was already critical of Giuliani's decision to remove firefighters and other rescue workers from the task of recovering remains from the wreckage of the trade center. In the new video, the union argues that 121 firefighters in the north tower could have survived if they had been able to receive orders to evacuate after the south tower fell.

Firefighters reported problems with their radio gear after the 1993 bombing. Union leaders argue in the new video that Giuliani, who took office later that year, failed to solve those problems in the eight years between attacks.

"He gave us nothing when we needed a life-saving radio," says Peter Gorman, a former local president.

Giuliani told the independent commission that investigated the attacks that police and fire departments should have radio systems that allow them to communicate on the same channel, but that the systems are designed to operate differently "90 percent of the time."

He said new radios introduced in early 2001 were withdrawn because they were "too complicated to use" - but union officials say they were introduced without proper testing and firefighters were unable to communicate with them.

During the same testimony, he defended his decision to build the city's emergency operations center in the 7 World Trade Center building, which collapsed on September 11. Local offices of the CIA, the Secret Service and other law-enforcement agencies were located in the same building.

But he told commissioners, "In retrospect, obviously, you wouldn't want to put it there if you had known what was going to happen."

Some of those in the video accused Giuliani of blaming the victims by telling the 9/11 commission that many firefighters decided to "stand their ground" when ordered to evacuate. The commission's staff reports partially support his testimony, concluding that some firefighters put off evacuating to help injured or handicapped civilians.

But while some firefighters, including at least two battalion chiefs, received the evacuation order, "other firefighters did not receive the transmissions." The system was overwhelmed by radio traffic, and some of the firefighters had rushed to the scene while off-duty without their radios, the report states.


Filed under: Rudy Giuliani
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Shawn, Kansas City MO

    Regardless of how well or how badly you think RG handled the events of 9-11, the point is that one event does not qualify you to be President. One needs to take a broader look at the person's political record and see how he/she has performed when it comes to the issues and leadership ability over the long term.

    You should ask yourself what Giuliani's record was prior to 9/11; was he loved or hated by the people that elected him? Did he provide a vision for the city and move it forward or did he use his position to line his and his friend's pockets? What did he do for education, unemployment, crime? If you can't answer any of these questions, then do you really know if he would be a good choice to lead this country?

    It's wrong to criticize the actions of anyone that was put in the position RG was during 9/11, it was a tragedy and no amount of preparation could have stopped it. However, it would be another tragedy to put that person in charge of our country based solely on the sympathy created from that same event.

    July 12, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. Marcia Pierce Ramsey New Jersey

    What are these nonsensical comments saying that he should be deported? Gulliani is a natural born American citizen (or else he couldn't be running for President) and therefore cannot be deported (deported to where?).

    July 12, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Paul, New Orleans, LA

    Why would we as a country want someone with no foreign policy at all? Ron Paul took Rudy to the woodshed about blowback, do you Rudy lovers even no what that is? Can any of you Rudy lovers explain what foreign policy experience he has? He does not even know what blowback is. He did not even know that the government installed our on ruler in Iran in 1953 and numerous other central american countries. Please Rudy lovers, enlighten me on why I should even consider Rudy and not RON PAUL!!!!!

    July 12, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Adam, Washington, DC

    Gee Susan, I hate to break it to you, but Rudy is neither an Anglo Saxon nor a Protestant. So, I'm not sure where you get off calling him a WASP.

    July 12, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. NS, New York, NY

    As a New Yorker I just want to address those Red Staters who are asking why the Firemen waited 6 years to make these charges- we here in NYC have been hearing firemen make these complaints for over 5 years. Just because you've never heard them before doesn't mean they didn't exist.

    July 12, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Mike, HI

    I'd have to agree with those saying that Giulani gets recognition simply for being the mayor during the attacks. The only way for the mayor (or governor, or president) not to be a 'hero' following that would require a degree of incompetence unheard of from any functioning adult.

    I don't want to look at my president and think, "Man, he'll know what to do if we get attacked." I want to look at my president and think, "He's not going to let us get attacked." Yes, it may be unfair to criticize him for not considering two planes crashing into the WTC. And since he's been out of office, he hasn't had the opportunity to prove that he knows how to stop an attack or minimize the damage of one. But in that case, he shouldn't spend all his airtime talking about how he can protect us from evil terrorists. His record doesn't support it. Maybe he should focus on other issues that would help the common American citizen.

    Again, I want a president that knows how to keep us safe, not how to respond after we've lost American lives. And, in my opinion, that's not done by more wiretapping or secret prisons; it's done by getting the world to like us again. And if Giulani can't even admit that there is a rational explanation behind such hatred-the federal government's persistent intrusion into foreign countries and holy sites-then he seems incapable of making us safer.

    July 12, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  7. yousuf, astoria, NY

    The only way RG can get my vote or American vote is If he admits that our foreign policy is the cause of 9/11, the support for Israel and building military bases over the middle east for the interest of its oil...RG needs to admit to that and we will all vote for him...maybe...

    July 12, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. John, NYC

    WOW, these comment pages really bring out the conspiracy theorists and flat-earthers!

    On Rudy, the homeland security guru–I don't see him really running on much other than the fact that he happenned to be mayor at the moment the towers fell and ran down the street to see what happened–pretty thin stuff. Kind of like me holding myself out as a cardiologist because a man had a heart attack in my presence and I called 911.

    July 12, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  9. James, New York, NY

    New Yorkers do not like Guliani. Why should the country? This guy left behind a complete mess in New York City, from the educational system to the budget deficit to the mess of the MTA transit system. His campaign is a joke, he doesn't even know we have partially socialized health care in the US. He had some soundbyte moments on 9/11 and is trying to cash in. Those of here remember him fondly as Wyatt Earp.

    July 12, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Sean, Orlando

    What do you mean "New Yorkers don't like Rudy?" Are you kidding me? I suppose that's why he had a 60-40 lead over Hillary in the New York senate race before he withdrew for cancer.

    You people really need to get your facts straight!

    July 12, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Gary, Denver, Colorado

    The only claim to fame Giuliani has is running down the street screaming "Intruder Alert", Intruder Alert". The Fire Fighters, the true hero's, the ones who really know what happened, have spoken. That's good enough for me. I think we owe it to every American that fell that day to expose Giuliani for the cheap opportunist that he is.

    July 12, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. Tyler, Orlando FL

    Why did Giuliani put the Emergency Management Center IN the World Trade Center? Does that sound like a smart idea considering that location was attacked in '93 and was a hot target for terrorists? Why are people so foolish to vote for Giuliani? Why do people let him scare them with his propaganda and fact-less statements?

    July 12, 2007 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  13. EMSHighway, Queens, NY

    Apparently people aren't getting it. Firefighters advised the radios didn't work. Rudy and his boys took it upon themselves to buy new radios that still didn't work. No testing, no bidding, just push the radios out, Rudy knows best.

    Rudy knew best and put his OEM office in the worst possible location no matter how much people who had to work there complained.

    Before during and after Rudy's staff had to clear every press release that came out of any department no matter how small it may be. I was at several crime scenes where Rudy walked right in the middle of everything (even though he was told different) and ruin the scene. He is an ego maniac and will ruin this country worse than Bush has.

    July 12, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  14. Toastie

    How drugged up and oblivious to FACT and REASON are some Americans?

    Take Dorothy of Standish, Maine:

    "Who in this country aside from the terrorists plotting this horrible attack, could ever have imagined such unspeakable horrors. No one was prepared for such an event".

    Um, Dot, do you get all your news from Fox? The FBI, the CIA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES all knew that there was the possibility of terrorists flying planes into buildings. Condy Rice showed Bush the memo while he took a month off to clear brush in Crawford. The memo said, "Bin Laden determined to attach..." and went on to describe how he might do it.

    Rudy Giuliani has profited $100 million from his post-9/11 consultancy. Who cares if the firefighters are Dems are Republicans; the FACTS are clear that Rudy made critical mistakes that COST LIVES. He is an opportunist at best, at criminal at worst.

    God Bless Rudy? He'll need a lot more than God's blessing when his judgment day comes.

    Dot, get your head out of the sand already. It's been 6 years since 9/11; you need a reality check.

    July 12, 2007 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  15. Alessan, nyc

    If any candidate in this race deserves
    this, it's ex-Mayor Guiliani, tough on what...he wasn't around long enough to be tough on anything, except bums, and
    graffiti. He failed on 9/11 and everyone that doesn't live in NYC should know it, he's got the people of Iowa, NH and SC fooled, now they know the truth about Rudy.

    July 12, 2007 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  16. Heather Simpson, Atlanta Georgia

    Finally, someone realize that Giuliani is not a leader. Outside New York, he is only recognized for September 11. That is is only fuel igniting the fire. He never listened to the people of New York as a Mayor and he sure won't as a President. So many small business owners thriving to survive in New York lost their business because a voice that never understand the middle and lower class muffle their cries.

    July 13, 2007 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  17. Ap

    Its about time someone stood up to this fraud for what he is: a guy who made a career after 9/11. Its one thing to give a guys some political leeway for just being the mayor at such a tragic time, but that by no means makes him a good leader like everyone says he is. People like him and Bush need to stop crying about 9/11 to pick up some votes.

    I met his daughter once and she says he's a disgusting man.

    July 13, 2007 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Paul, New Orleans, LA

    I am still waiting on some Rudy supporters to convince me why Rudy knows more about foreign policy than RON PAUL. Anyone???

    July 13, 2007 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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