On Fox News, Dick Morris misrepresented NY Times article on Giuliani's 9-11 response

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

On the May 14 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, syndicated columnist Dick Morris asserted that there is "a concerted effort by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment to derail [former New York City mayor] Rudy Giuliani as a potential Republican [presidential] candidate." As evidence, Morris cited a May 14 New York Times article that he characterized as "ridiculous," because, he said, the article "sa[id] that Rudy's legacy will be hurt because he made rescue workers breathe the foul air -- like he didn't breathe it himself. Like we should have waited a year-and-a-half ... before we dug up the body parts so that people ... would be fine. Like that wasn't a casualty of terrorism." In fact, the Times did not claim that Giuliani "made" rescue workers breathe toxic air; rather, the article reported that the city "never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at [Ground Zero] wear respirators."

During the same broadcast, Morris claimed that "everybody knows that this guy's [Giuliani] role in 9-11 was spectacular." But, as Media Matters for America has noted, in Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), authors Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins cite what they present as Giuliani's terrorism-related failures before, during, and after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In addition to reporting that New York City did not enforce federal requirements that people at Ground Zero wear respirators, the Times article also noted that Giuliani sometimes appeared at the site without a respirator. Nowhere does the article claim that Giuliani "made" rescue workers breathe toxic air, as Morris baselessly suggested. From the article:

Administration documents and thousands of pages of legal testimony filed in a lawsuit against New York City, along with more than two dozen interviews with people involved in the events of the last four months of Mr. Giuliani's administration, show that while the city had a safety plan for workers, it never meaningfully enforced federal requirements that those at the site wear respirators.

At the same time, the administration warned companies working on the pile that they would face penalties or be fired if work slowed. And according to public hearing transcripts and unpublished administration records, officials also on some occasions gave flawed public representations of the nature of the health threat, even as they privately worried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.

"The city ran a generally slipshod, haphazard, uncoordinated, unfocused response to environmental concerns," said David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a labor group.

[...]

An official who was then with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who asked not to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak for the agency, said the focus in safety discussions was always on preventing accidents, not protecting workers from the toxic dust.

Remarkably, not one fatal accident occurred on the pile. But the city's inspectors found that by late October, only 29 percent of ground zero workers were wearing the sophisticated respirators that were required by OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration]. Even Mr. Giuliani sometimes showed up without one.

Morris' assertion that there is "a concerted effort by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment to derail Rudy Giuliani as a potential Republican candidate" echoes his previous claim that "MSNBC biased that [the May 3 Republican presidential] debate against" Giuliani, and that Matthews, who moderated the debate along with The Politico's executive editor Jim VandeHei and editor in chief John Harris, had participated in "a deliberate act by Politico.com and MSNBC ... to hurt Rudy." During the May 14 show, Morris repeated this theory, saying: "MSNBC short-changed Rudy by 40 percent on the time that he was allotted in the last debate." Morris also said: "I hope Fox doesn't do this tomorrow" -- referring to the May 15 Republican debate to air on Fox News.

Later on the May 14 program, Morris gushed over Giuliani's "9-11 legacy," and asked: "Will he sort of say to these other guys, these other nine pygmies, 'Look, I ran New York City, not only reduced crime, not only balanced the budget, but I ran it during 9-11. I understand how to stop terrorism. I understand how to deal with terrorism.' " In response, co-host Alan Colmes noted that "the first responders in New York weren't working very well" immediately following the attacks. Morris replied: "As far as the first responders, look, everybody knows that this guy's role in 9-11 was spectacular. And what he needs to do is to embrace that."

However, Giuliani's actions in relation to the 9-11 attacks have been widely criticized:

  • As Media Matters noted, in Grand Illusion, Barrett and Collins wrote, "Everyone agrees that a critical problem that day was that the police and fire departments could not communicate," and that "the lack of interoperable radios" between the New York fire and police departments "became ... a focus of fury" (Page 343). On that day, the New York City fire department was using outdated VHF radios that were incompatible with the police department's UHF radios.
  • A March 14 New York Times article reported that Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said: "The whole issue of the radios is unforgivable. ... Everyone knew they needed a better system, and he [Giuliani] didn't get it done."
  • As Media Matters also noted, Barrett and Collins wrote in their book that "Giuliani's preference for the comfort of a huge entourage had disconnected the city's management and its fighting force at a crucial moment" during the emergency response to the 9-11 attacks. The authors pointed to Giuliani's former police commissioner Bernard Kerik as "a prime example of this managerial dysfunction all morning." They reported that in the 102 minutes between the first impact of a plane into the World Trade Center and the collapse of the North Tower, "Kerik became Giuliani's bodyguard, just as he had been in the 1993 mayoral campaign," rather than leading the police's efforts (Page 350).

Additionally, during the May 14 broadcast, Morris falsely claimed that Giuliani put his Office of Emergency Management's (OEM) command center -- which was referred to in the broadcast as a "control center" -- in the World Trade Center because "[i]t's the tallest building in New York, and you need to be able to see what's going on." In a May 13 interview on Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Giuliani told host Chris Wallace that the site was chosen because "it was also the location of the customs service, the Secret Service, and a number of the federal agencies, some of which I don't -- I'm not even sure I can mention at this date, that we had to be in contact with." Giuliani added that "[w]hen that command center was inoperable ... within a half-hour on September 11, we were able to move immediately to another command center."

As Media Matters has noted, Barrett and Collins wrote in Grand Illusion that Giuliani selected the 7 World Trade Center building to be the location of his OEM command center despite warnings from a previous police commissioner, Howard Safir, and NYPD chief operating officer Lou Anemone. The OEM's command center, which was located on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center, was destroyed when the building collapsed on 9-11. Furthermore, at the time of the attacks, the tallest building in New York was not 7 World Trade Center -- it was 1 World Trade Center.

From the May 14 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

HANNITY: Dick, let me ask you about a double standard that is absolutely driving me insane in this race already. For example, we're reading even today about Senator McCain's temper, but you don't read similar stories about Hillary's temper. Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes yesterday literally is asking a presidential candidate when he first had sex with his wife.

There's a whole series of hit pieces out on Rudy Giuliani today. If elected president, he could pose a conflict in the private sector. He parlayed his fame into wealth. Bloomy -- Bloomberg tops Rudy in all the -- in the battle of the titans of New York mayors.

There's not that same scrutiny. Hillary supports partial-birth abortion. You don't hear any questions about that.

MORRIS: What's going on --

HANNITY: This is going to be the biggest campaign contribution to the Democrats.

MORRIS: What's going on is a concerted effort by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment to derail Rudy Giuliani as a potential Republican candidate, 'cause they know --

HANNITY: Why?

MORRIS: -- that Rudy is the one that can beat Hillary and can win. And, therefore, The New York Times runs this ridiculous front-page story, saying that Rudy's legacy will be hurt because he made rescue workers breathe the foul air -- like he didn't breathe it himself. Like we should have waited a year-and-a-half --

HANNITY: That's a good point.

MORRIS: -- before we dug up the body parts so that people were -- would be fine. Like that wasn't a casualty of terrorism.

The Times and the liberal organs are going out of their way to besmirch Giuliani, and the best thing -- I hope Fox doesn't do this tomorrow -- was MSNBC short-changed Rudy by 40 percent on the time that he was allotted in the last debate.

COLMES: Hey, Dick, we've only got a second here, but, you know, you want to blame the Democrats for going after Obama. You blame Hillary for that. And when it's time to go after Rudy, you want to blame the liberal press and the Democrats for that. Don't the Republicans do their own opposition research and go after each other in the primary? It's not always the Democrats or the so-called "liberal press' " fault going after candidates.

MORRIS: Not a whole lot. The only candidate that has any kind of budget to do that is Romney, and he's probably not going to do it, because Rudy is not really his threat. McCain doesn't have any kind of a budget. He's hand-to-mouth on money.

Rudy is the only other guy with money. And the journalistic organs do not have the budgets for this kind of op research. This is fed to them, piece by piece. Can I cut your meat for you, sir?

[...]

COLMES: Tomorrow night, what does the second- or third-tier candidate have to do to move up a tier in the debate, if it's possible?

MORRIS: I don't know. Win a war. Cure cancer. I think the main thing that I'm going to be looking for as I watch that debate is: Will Rudy finally step up to the 9-11 legacy? Will he sort of say to these other guys, these other nine pygmies, "Look, I ran New York City, not only reduced crime, not only balanced the budget, but I ran it during 9-11. I understand how to stop terrorism. I understand how to deal with terrorism.

"And when you want a president who's going to have the experience to deal with terrorists, you're not going to find it in a senator. You're sure not going to find it in a congressman or a former governor of a state that was never attacked. You're going to find it in the mayor of the city that took it on the chin."

COLMES: Does he have a problem that he put the control tower --

MORRIS: He's got to do that.

COLMES: -- control center in the World Trade Center after the 1993 hit on the World Trade Center? He still used that for command and control. Wasn't that a big misstep? And the first responders in New York weren't working very well. Isn't that on his shoulders, as well?

MORRIS: It's the tallest building in New York, and you need to be able to see what's going on -- so it made sense to do that. As far as the first responders, look, everybody knows that this guy's role in 9-11 was spectacular. And what he needs to do is to embrace that. In the last debate, he didn't mention 9-11 until his final answer.

HANNITY: All right, Dick. All right, good to see you, Dick. Thanks very much. DickMorris.com, if you want to get his free columns.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Dick Morris
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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