Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relatives of Firefighters Blast Giuliani
Relatives of Firefighters Blast Giuliani

Relatives of firefighters killed at the World Trade Center in 2001 reproached Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani in a video Wednesday, pairing footage of the falling twin towers with charges that the city's former mayor was woefully unprepared for Sept. 11, causing needless firefighter deaths.

The parents and siblings of some of the 343 firefighters killed in the terrorist attacks released the video with the International Association of Fire Fighters, which opposes Giuliani's candidacy.

Giuliani's campaign denounced the images, saying that the former mayor had a long history of supporting firefighters' health and safety and that the international union releasing the video only supports Democratic presidential candidates.

Fire union officials and family members, repeating claims they had made for months, charged Giuliani pushed for a faster cleanup of ground zero at the expense of finding remains, put an emergency center in a building that collapsed on Sept. 11 and failed to provide working radios for firefighters, making it impossible for them to learn the towers were on the verge of collapse.

"Virtually the whole thing goes back to him with the radios," Jim Riches, a deputy fire chief whose son was killed on Sept. 11, says in the video. "He's the guy on the top, and he's the guy you yell at.

"He takes the hit. And my son is dead because of it."

Giuliani's camp called the video a "mockumentary." Giuliani campaign spokesman Michael McKeon said the union leadership "makes Michael Moore look like Edward R. Murrow."

Former New York firefighter Lee Ielpi, whose son died on Sept. 11, and former Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Richard Sheirer appeared at a news conference with McKeon, calling the video a "disgrace" and saying it is full of "half-truths."

Ielpi disputed claims made in the tape that workers searching for remains were pulled from the rubble, arguing that Giuliani allowed some workers to return. Similarly, Sheirer said it wasn't the radios that didn't work but rather a high-rise signal transmission system that didn't work in one of the towers but worked "perfectly" in the other tower, until it crashed to the ground.

"I was there. I saw it. I experienced it," said Ielpi, who worked at ground zero for the nine-month cleanup. "I'm not going to let lies like this go."

But the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Harold Schaitberger, said that Giuliani is opposed by firefighters on both sides of the aisle.

"Giuliani's biggest problem is that this video is a bipartisan condemnation of his record on 9/11," Schaitberger said.

The 13-minute video was being distributed to the union's 280,000 members, to the news media and online.

It includes statements from leaders of the city's two largest firefighter unions, who say Giuliani became rich and famous on his image as a post-Sept. 11 hero while ignoring firefighters' needs.

"This image of Rudy Giuliani as America's mayor, it's a myth," said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents about 9,000 firefighters.

Cassidy said that his union supported George Bush in the last election and had supported George Pataki for governor of New York.

"It's not about Republicans, it's about this Republican," he said.

Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, says in the video that Giuliani's image is more important to him than the needs of firefighters.

"He's making millions, tens of millions of dollars on the backs of my members, as far as I'm concerned," he says.