Rudy Giuliani’s campaign is again under attack by The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) who last week released a video packed with claims against the presidential candidate. Urging citizens not to vote for Giuliani, IAFF purports to speak on behalf of some of 343 firefighters lost on 9/11 by featuring friends and family members in the video. Though IAFF says they are non-partisan, President Harold Schaitberger is a “longtime supporter of Kerry,” and the IAFF endorsed the Kerry campaign in 2004.
Schaitberger introduces the video as “part of our ongoing political education process.” But it’s more than that. IAFF has taken issue with Giuliani in the past for other 9/11 concerns including “his decision to make cops higher in the pecking order when emergency-response and security issues arise,” according to the New York Post.
IAFF also has a history of opposing Republicans and endorsing Democrats. They have supported Democrats Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton and Al Gore in past presidential elections, according to press releases documented by the Giuliani campaign.
In a statement, retired New York City firefighter Lee Ielpi said, “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.”
The IAFF challenge began in March with a letter disapproving of Giuliani based on what IAFF said was his mishandling of body retrieval of fallen fighters and on Giuliani’s alleged failure to replace faulty radio equipment before 9/11. For these reasons, Schaitberger said Giuliani’s decisions “lead to — in our view — the unnecessary deaths of our FDNY members.”
After months of recovery effort, IAFF said “Giuliani… expedite[d] the clean-up of Ground Zero in lieu of the more time-consuming, but respectful, process of removing debris piece by piece in hope of uncovering more remains.” They claimed this meant pulling rescue workers from the scene, thereby leaving bodies to be buried at Ground Zero or dumping them in a landfill.
But Giuliani’s official website maintains he has long upheld taking firefighters off the ground zero ‘pile’ because “safety was a primary concern.” In fact, in a November 2001 NBC news broadcast, nearly three months after of 9-11, he said, “All of us standing here have friends that continue to remain there, and we would love to recover them. But none of us standing here can possibly justify seeing a human being die in this effort.”
The DELTA Group, a University of California at Davis based association of scientists, reported results that supported Giuliani’s concerns for worker safety, citing dangerous levels of harmful substances in the air around ground zero during the 9/11 cleanup.
The chemicals in the air following the attacks could have long term effects on the health of recovery workers said reports from a UCD professor studying post 9/11 air quality. Once Giuliani knew of the severity of these environmental threats, his web site says he did everything within his power to protect recovery workers, in part by decreasing the number of firemen at ground zero.
In May, the New York Times reported that “Administration officials…on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried about exposure to lawsuits by sickened workers.”
According to a study released last year by the Mount Sinai Medical Center, “roughly 70% of nearly 10,000 workers tested at Mount Sinai from 2002 to 2004 reported that they had new or substantially worsened respiratory problems while or after working at ground zero.”
These adverse health affects prove Giuliani’s concerns valid.
IAFF’s political action committee said Giuliani knew about faulty radio equipment and refused to replace it and thus he is indirectly responsible for the deaths of firefighters on 9/11. They say firefighters never received a vital “Mayday” message issued by the NYC fire chief for them to get out of the towers. Giuliani’s web site says that the “FDNY purchased personal alarms for all firefighters, aiding in search and rescue of downed firefighters.”
To the 9/11 Commission, Giuliani testified that firefighters heard an evacuation order but did not leave because they were ”standing their ground." Giuliani said they ”were interpreting an evacuation order the way a brave rescue worker would interpret an evacuation order, which is to first get the civilians out and then get yourself out.”
Dennis Merrigan, a captain in the Philadelphia Fire Department disagrees with the premise of the IAFF ad. In a blog (firstinengine.com) he writes, “The radio issue is something that is bigger than Rudy in my opinion. I think the Fire Commissioner [Thomas] Von Essen should shoulder the lion share of the blame for faulty equipment used in HIS department. I think that’s why the mayor of NYC has a Fire Commissioner, to work out those issues.”
Like many have commented already, Merrigan calls this “the swift-boating of Rudy Giuliani.” Merrigan told me his main problem is with Schaitberger (and not the FDNY.) In fact, he said had this video come from the local affiliate, he would have no problem with it. He calls Schaitberger a “slime bag” who “actively supported and campaigned for John Kerry in the last election [and]…uses the International to endorse candidates even though many of its membership are barred from actively engaging in election activity.”
IAFF hopes to bring down Giuliani by “exposing the truth about his record.” But Time Magazine’s 2001 Man of the Year, the “gutsy decision maker…crisis manager…and consoler in chief,” handled a crumbled New York City with poise. IAFF’s accusations are laced with a political agenda that must be exposed.