Schieffer, Russert baselessly portrayed Giuliani's 9-11 actions as an unmitigated asset for him

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On the March 1 edition of the CBS Evening News, CBS chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer stated as fact that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) was "a smart and decisive leader on 9-11." Similarly, on the March 1 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert asked whether Giuliani was leading in a February 23-26 Time magazine poll because of "something going on within the Republican psyche, which says, 'You know what? The most important issue is to be strong -- particularly against terrorists.' " Russert added: "And no one defined himself more than anybody else in the country than Rudy Giuliani on September 11. He was the one talking not only to people in this city ... but all across the country." But, as Media Matters for America has documented (here and here), in their book, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), Village Voice senior editor Wayne Barrett and senior producer Dan Collins expressed a very different view of Giuliani's conduct, arguing that Giuliani was responsible for terrorism-related failures before, during, and, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Moreover, Barrett and Collins wrote that Giuliani's actions as mayor, including a failure to set up a unified command post for the New York Fire and Police departments, contributed to a lack of communication between police officers and fire fighters on 9-11. On September 11, 2002, The New York Times reported (subscription required) in a news analysis that "[t]he Police and Fire Departments barely spoke on 9/11. They set up separate command posts." As Barrett and Collins noted, a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) concluded:

[T]here were overlapping functions with NYPD ESU [Emergency Service Unit] rescue team operations inside and around the WTC towers and FDNY operations. Although ESU rescues teams eventually joined and worked with FDNY personnel, functional unified operations were diminished as a result of the two departments' command posts being separated.

Fire Department commissioner Thomas Von Essen acknowledged that on 9-11 "the police did not hook up with the Fire Department. ... I don't know why."

Additionally, during the same segment in which he praised Giuliani's 9-11 leadership, Schieffer claimed that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "had to apologize" for his comment "that a lot of lives were being wasted in Iraq." But as noted, McCain's statement "did not contain an apology."

From the March 1 edition of NBC's Today:

RUSSERT: Giuliani is now seen as the outsider. He is the new candidate, but, Matt, the McCain people feel very strongly that when conservative voters learn about Giuliani's positions on abortion, on gay rights, on gun control, there will be some slippage.

LAUER: Why don't they know about those stances? Because when you look at this poll, and it says among Republican voters, Giuliani has a 19-percentage-point lead over John McCain, and yet this goes counter to the watercooler buzz, the political buzz that we've been talking about that Rudy Giuliani is going to have a major problem because of those issues.

RUSSERT: Well, McCain people hope so. But, is it something going on within the Republican psyche which says, "You know what? The most important issue is to be strong -- particularly against terrorists"? And no one defined himself more than anybody else in the country than Rudy Giuliani on September 11th. He was the one talking not only to people in this city --

LAUER: Right.

RUSSERT: -- but all across the country.

LAUER: It was [former Massachusetts Gov.] Mitt Romney [R], who announced, I guess, about 10 days ago that he is also in this race, and yet he's pretty low in the polls. What does he have to do?

RUSSERT: He has to be the outsider, the governor, in the tradition of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

From the February 1 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

KATIE COURIC (host): We want to go now to Bob Schieffer, our chief Washington correspondent. Bob, McCain did not expect to be trailing anyone at this point in his second run at the Republican nomination. What happened?

SCHIEFFER: Well, he surely didn't, and now Giuliani has a big lead in the polls, at least.

I think it is because John McCain is a senator. He has a record. Anything he does, he gets a lot of publicity, like last night on [CBS' The Late Show with David] Letterman. He said that a lot of lives were being wasted in Iraq. The blocs and the Democrats attacked him. Today, he had to apologize and say what he meant to say was a lot of lives are being sacrificed.

On the other hand, Giuliani, so far, is sort of running under the radar. He's campaigning a lot, but he's not holding many news conferences. He's not being on national television very much. So he is not being cut on for being pro-gay rights and pro-abortion, things that a lot of Republicans don't like.

Eventually, he's going to have to answer those questions, but right now, he's managed to keep the focus on being a smart and decisive leader on 9-11. That cannot last once he has to start asking these -- and answering these questions. But for now, it's working, and John McCain, Katie, is the one that's being hurt by it.

COURIC: And, Bob, you talk about this campaign starting earlier than ever. How do you think that will change the dynamics of the race?

Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer
Today Show, CBS Evening News
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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