The New Yorker reported Giuliani's "expertise on terrorism" and "leadership" on 9-11, cited no criticism

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER & BRIAN LEVY

In a New Yorker profile of Rudy Giuliani, Peter Boyer uncritically reported that "Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism" and asserted that he "performed well on September 11th." He added: "The common refrain among New Yorkers" is that "Giuliani showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks." However, Boyer did not mention that Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the attacks has been questioned and criticized.

In a profile of Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, published in the August 20 edition of The New Yorker, staff writer Peter Boyer uncritically reported that "Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism" and asserted that he "performed well on September 11th." He added: "The common refrain among New Yorkers" is that "Giuliani showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks." Similarly, on the August 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Boyer asserted that he has "heard all through the heartland" that Giuliani "is the guy who can beat [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY]. The other piece of it is, he's ... of course, famously the mayor of America for the September 11th heroics." However, Boyer did not mention anywhere in his 14,800-word article, or on Hardball, that Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the 9-11 attacks has been questioned and criticized.

Boyer's New Yorker article posited that much of Giuliani's support among Republican voters is rooted in approval of his record as mayor of New York City before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, not wholly "because of his September 11th celebrity." According to Boyer, "to many in the heartland Giuliani was heroic for what he did in New York before September 11th." But in a number of instances, Boyer uncritically referred to Giuliani's self-proclaimed record on terrorism. He wrote: "On the campaign trail, Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism, and he occasionally hints that he has an especially valuable source on the subject." Boyer also quoted Giuliani urging voters to judge him based on his "whole record" to see if he would "be the best person to lead the country right now, given the threat we have from terrorism," and asserted that Giuliani "performed well" on 9-11 and "showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks":

Giuliani finally arrived, and after a few remarks he asked for questions from the gathering. When the subject of public funding of abortion came up, Giuliani did not invoke [former New York Attorney General] Louis Lefkowitz [R]. He said he knew that many people would disagree with his position on abortion and other social issues. "But what I ask them to do if they disagree is to take a look at my whole record and see if, in the context of my whole record, I still wouldn't be the best person to lead the country right now, given the threat we have from terrorism." Here he paused and added, "And, I think, given the threat we have from Democrats." The audience laughed. Giuliani went on, "Which is not the same thing." The audience laughed again. "The Democrats will lead us to more socialism-type solutions to our problems."

[...]

Giuliani has led the Republican field in the national polls from the start, partly because of his September 11th celebrity but also because of his September 10th celebrity. The common refrain among New Yorkers is that although Giuliani showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks, in the preceding months he had been a spent and isolated lame duck, his viability sapped by churlishness and the spectacle of his unattractive personal dramas. But to many in the heartland Giuliani was heroic for what he did in New York before September 11th: his policy prescriptions and, mostly, his taming of the city's liberal political culture -- his famous crackdown on squeegee-men panhandlers, his workfare program, his attacks on controversial museum exhibits ("The idea of ... so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick!"), and the like.

[...]

On the campaign trail, Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism, and he occasionally hints that he has an especially valuable source on the subject. When I asked Giuliani about [Ali] Soufan ["an Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American who had been the lead investigator into the October, 2000, suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole"], he confirmed his posting in the Persian Gulf, and praised him as "one of the world-class experts on terrorism." In the event of a Giuliani Administration, he added, "maybe I'd want to steal him away."

[...]

When Giuliani's tenure as mayor ended, in 2002, he left behind a city that was grateful, and more than a little relieved to see him go. He had achieved much of his program of radical reform, and he performed well on September 11th, but it had felt like an eight-year fistfight.

Boyer also quoted Giuliani attacking Democrats' credentials in fighting terrorism:

Such events, little noticed by the broad voting public, can send important signals to political activists. The signal from Giuliani was that he had found his old form. He began to taunt Democrats for faintheartedness in what he called "the terrorists' war against us" -- extending, he charged, to an unwillingness to even call the enemy by its name: Islamic terrorism. "Did they think it wouldn't be politically correct?" he said. "Did they think it would be insulting? When you say 'Islamic terrorists,' the only people you're insulting are ... Islamic terrorists. And, really, we don't care if we insult them."

Echoing his New Yorker article, Boyer asserted on Hardball that he has "heard all through the heartland" that Giuliani "is the guy who can beat Hillary Clinton. The other piece of it is, he's, you know, of course, famously the mayor of America for the September 11th heroics." While Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented (here, here, here, here, here, and here) media figures touting Giuliani's reputation as "America's Mayor" despite the numerous controversies marking his political career, Boyer made no mention, either on Hardball or in his article, of the criticism surrounding Giuliani's handling of the 9-11 attacks.

As Media Matters has repeatedly noted, New York City's firefighters have been critical of Giuliani for what they see as his failure to ensure that the New York police and fire departments had interoperable radios. At the time of the attacks, the New York fire department was using outdated VHF radios that were incompatible with the police department's UHF radios. On March 14, The New York Times reported Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters [IAFF], saying of Giuliani: "The whole issue of the radios is unforgivable. ... Everyone knew they needed a better system, and he didn't get it done."

Moreover, in an August 7 Village Voice article headlined "Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies About 9/11" senior editor Wayne Barrett, co-author of Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), reported that a 1995 sarin-gas drill conducted by New York City officials highlighted the radio interoperability problem that "would be identified years later in official reviews of the 9/11 response":

The 1995 sarin-gas drill that Giuliani cited in his July speech was also prophetic, anticipating many of the breakdowns that hampered the city's 9/11 response. The drill was such a disaster that a follow-up exercise was cancelled to avoid embarrassment. More than a hundred of the first responders rushed in so recklessly that they were "killed" by exposure to the gas. Radio communications were described in the city's own report as "abysmal," with police and fire "operating on different frequencies." The command posts were located much too close to the incident. All three failings would be identified years later in official reviews of the 9/11 response.

Indeed, the radios' limited ability was a known concern after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Then-New York City Fire Chief Anthony L. Fusco wrote in the December 1993 issue of Fire Engineering:

A major detriment to our ability to strengthen control of the incident was fire department on-scene communications. Communications were a serious problem from the outset. With 156 units and 31 chiefs operating at the height of this incident, try to imagine how difficult it was to gain control of the portable-radio operations frequency. Two command channels and one tactical channel were used. In many cases, runners were sent by a sector commander to communicate with the incident commander.

Generally, the problems were caused by one or more of the following factors:

  • the number of resources using channels;
  • not enough channels for operational areas;
  • distance problems -- lost messages;
  • construction of building interrupted signals; and
  • the inability to contact other agencies.

In his Village Voice article, Barrett reported in that Giuliani "was oblivious" to the 1993 WTC bombing. According to the article, sources involved in the selection of Giuliani's new police commissioner after he was first elected mayor "said later that the bombing and terrorism were never mentioned -- even when the new mayor got involved with the interviews himself" and "U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White and the four assistants who prosecuted the 1993 bombing said they were never asked to brief Giuliani about terrorism":

"Then, as mayor of New York," Giuliani's July speech continued, "I got elected right after the 1993 Islamic terrorist attack ... I set up emergency plans for all the different possible attacks we could have. We had drills and exercises preparing us for sarin gas and anthrax, dirty bombs."

In fact, Giuliani was oblivious to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing throughout his mayoralty. A month after the attack, candidate Giuliani met for the first time with Bill Bratton, who would ultimately become his police commissioner. The lengthy taped meeting was one of several policy sessions he had with unofficial advisers. The bombing never came up; neither did terrorism. When Giuliani was elected a few months later, he immediately launched a search for a new police commissioner. Three members of the screening panel that Giuliani named to conduct the search, and four of the candidates interviewed for the job, said later that the bombing and terrorism were never mentioned-even when the new mayor got involved with the interviews himself. When Giuliani needed an emergency management director a couple of years later, two candidates for the job and the city official who spearheaded that search said that the bombing and future terrorist threats weren't on Giuliani's radar. The only time Giuliani invoked the 1993 bombing publicly was at his inauguration in 1994, when he referred to the way the building's occupants evacuated themselves as a metaphor for personal responsibility, ignoring the bombing itself as a terrorist harbinger.

U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White and the four assistants who prosecuted the 1993 bombing said they were never asked to brief Giuliani about terrorism, though all of the assistants knew Giuliani personally and had actually been hired by him when he was the U.S. Attorney. White's office, located just a couple hundred yards from City Hall, indicted bin Laden three years before 9/11, but Giuliani recounted in his own book, Leadership, that "shortly after 9/11, Judith [Nathan] got me a copy of Yossef Bodansky's Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," which had warned of "spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York" in 1999. As an example of how he "mastered a subject," Giuliani wrote that he soon "covered" Bodansky's prophetic work "in highlighter and notes."

Giuliani has also received criticism for selecting 7 World Trade Center as the site of his emergency command center. Barrett and co-author Dan Collins reported in Grand Illusion that the site was chosen after Giuliani "overruled" warnings from former police commissioner Howard Safir and NYPD chief operating officer Lou Anemone not to locate it there, "[r]ejecting an already secure, technologically advanced city facility across the Brooklyn Bridge" because Giuliani "insisted on a command center within walking distance of City Hall" (Page 41). That building, 7 WTC, ultimately collapsed on 9-11.

Barrett's August 7 Village Voice article reported that Anemone "had done a detailed vulnerability study of the city for Giuliani, pinpointing terrorist targets" and that Anemone says that "[i]n terms of targets, the WTC was number one":

Of course, the consequences of putting the center there were predictable. The terrorist who engineered the 1993 bombing told the FBI they were coming back to the trade center. Opposing the site at a meeting with the mayor, Police Commissioner Howard Safir called it "Ground Zero" because of the earlier attack. Lou Anemone, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD, wrote memos slamming the site. "I've never seen in my life 'walking distance' as some kind of a standard for crisis management," Anemone said later. "But you don't want to confuse Giuliani with the facts." Anemone had done a detailed vulnerability study of the city for Giuliani, pinpointing terrorist targets. "In terms of targets, the WTC was number one," he says. "I guess you had to be there in 1993 to know how strongly we felt it was the wrong place."

Safir recently publicly blamed Giuliani "subordinates" for the selection of 7 WTC, according to a July 11 ABC News article: "He got bad advice, and relied on some people who appeared to have the expertise, and they did not. ... I believe it was a mistake, but it was in good faith." Giuliani himself had previously asserted that his administration's Office of Emergency Management director, Jerome Hauer, was mainly responsible for selecting 7 WTC. On the August 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Giuliani said: "Jerry Hauer recommended that as the prime site and the site that would make the most sense. ... It was largely on his recommendation that that site was selected."

In response, Hauer told New York magazine's Lloyd Grove:

Another [Giuliani] aide, Denny Young, "called me and told me [a proposed site in] Brooklyn was not going to happen," Hauer recalls. "The mayor was not going to go to Brooklyn. He felt it was better to put it in lower Manhattan, within walking distance of City Hall." Given a directive from the mayor, Hauer supported the World Trade Center site.

Most recently, the New York Daily News reported on August 10 that Giuliani "drew outrage and indignation from Sept. 11 first-responders yesterday by saying he spent as much time -- or more -- exposed to the site's dangers as workers who dug through the debris for the missing and the dead." According to the Daily News, Giuliani "defended himself against critics of how he managed the attack's aftermath":

"This is not a mayor or a governor or a President who's sitting in an ivory tower," Giuliani said. "I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

The blog Think Progress noted that Giuliani attempted to clarify his remarks, saying, "I think I could have said it better. ... You know, what I was saying was, 'I'm there with you.' "

On August 17, The New York Times reported that "for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001," Giuliani spent "a total of 29 hours" at the WTC ruins "often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble." The Times added that "[i]n that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts." The Times contrasted Giuliani's time spent at Ground Zero with a study conducted by Mount Sinai Medical Center:

A sample by Mount Sinai Medical Center of 1,138 participants in its study of health problems among rescue, recovery and debris removal workers found that they had spent a median of 962 hours at the World Trade Center site, or the equivalent of about 120 eight-hour days.

In addition, the article reported that Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association of New York City, "said many of his members logged 30 hours in the first two days after the attacks, and most averaged more than 400 hours at ground zero and in the debris pile at the Staten Island landfill."

From the August 13 edition of MNSBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

BOYER: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. So, I didn't -- I live in New York. I grew up in South Mississippi. I was at an Ole Miss-LSU game a couple of years ago and John McCain, whose granddaddy had gone to school at Ole Miss, was there and he stopped by before the game. And people were polite and glad to see him and shook his hand, and he left. And people started asking me about Rudy Giuliani. Is Giuliani going to run?

And the thing they said was: He can beat Hillary. And that's the thing I have heard in South Carolina -- I mean, I've heard all through the heartland is: This is the guy who can beat Hillary Clinton. The other piece of it is, he's, you know, of course, famously the mayor of America for the September 11th heroics. But I was surprised by the degree to which so many people outside of New York knew about the pretty radical reform that he effected in New York City -- and that counts a lot to a lot of people outside of the city.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
The New Yorker
Person
Peter Boyer
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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