In a report on the International Association of Fire Fighters' (IAFF) criticism of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), CNN correspondent Mary Snow uncritically reported an assertion by a retired firefighter who supports Giuliani that the criticisms were partisan because the IAFF was an early and prominent backer of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. The criticisms were expressed in a February 28 draft letter from the IAFF to its union members. But neither Snow nor Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume, in a Fox News report, mentioned the fact that a New York City IAFF union affiliate -- where the letter reportedly originated -- that had supported President Bush's re-election in 2004 has also been outspoken in its criticism of Giuliani.
In her report on the March 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Snow stated that "the [IAFF] is vowing to expose what it describes as Giuliani's offensive and personal attack on firefighters following the September 11th attacks." After describing the issue, Snow then reported that Lee Ielpi, a member of the "campaign group 'Firefighters for Rudy' ... accuses the union of partisan politics and points out that the IAFF endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry in 2004."
For his part, Hume, on the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, stated that "[u]nion leaders complained that Giuliani reduced the number of firefighters involved in the recovery operation at the World Trade Center and instituted what they call a scoop-and-dump operation to expedite the cleanup, which the union says was disrespectful to the victims." He then stated that "[i]n 2004, it's worth noting, the IAFF was the first labor union to endorse Democrat John Kerry's race for the president [sic], and its president was at Kerry's side through much of the campaign."
In fact, the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York (IAFF Local 94) prominently endorsed President Bush during the 2004 Republican National Convention but has been very critical of Giuliani. As noted by a September 2, 2004, Washington Post article, "Bush arrived in New York in the early evening [of September 1] and was to tap into Sept. 11 imagery immediately by visiting firefighters and supporters at a community center in the Elmhurst section of Queens, with video beamed back for delegates at Madison Square Garden. He was celebrating a major endorsement announced hours earlier from the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, which represents 20,000 active and retired firefighters."
Stephen J. Cassidy, the current president of Local 94 whose name appears on the press release endorsing Bush in 2004, has reportedly criticized Giuliani in the past. An October 12, 2002, Newsday article quoted Cassidy as saying that "[a]lthough Giuliani is 'the most despised man in America' among firefighters," they would not stage "an overt protest" at a memorial service that day. Instead, Cassidy told the paper, "We decided that this is a solemn day for our families and our fallen brothers so we decided to tell them they should sit on their hands," rather than having "uniformed firefighters stand and turn their backs on the former mayor."
Likewise, the then-president of Local 94, Kevin Gallagher, and other firefighters clashed with Giuliani in early November 2001 over his decision to reduce the number of firefighters searching the rubble of the World Trade Center for bodies, events that formed the basis for the draft letter. According to a November 4, 2001, New York Times article, New York police arrested Gallagher on November 3 for criminal trespass in connection with a November 2 protest at the World Trade Center site. A "union spokesman" called Gallagher's arrest "a Stalinist tactic." A November 5, 2001, Times article reported that Gallagher "blamed the mayor after his arrest," quoting Gallagher's spokesman as saying, "'The message the city is sending is that if you don't agree with what a union says, you simply arrest its president." A November 6, 2001, New York Daily News article reported that after a memorial service, "Giuliani shook the hands of a number of Fire Department brass, city officials and former Rep. Rick Lazio [R-NY]. Standing beside Lazio was Gallagher. Instead of shaking his hand, the mayor turned his back and walked off."
Snow also reported that "the nation's largest union is angry that Rudy Giuliani has declined an invitation to attend" the IAFF's March 14 Presidential Forum, and that "[t]he IAFF is angry again -- this time [because] Giuliani won't attend their upcoming forum." By contrast, a March 9 New York Daily News article noted by Salon.com's War Room weblog reported the events began with the "letter that was drafted but not sent by city union officials, who were trying to exclude Giuliani ... from the planned presidential forum in Washington next week." However, the article reported that "[t]hey failed" to exclude Giuliani and he "was invited and agreed Monday to attend, only to say no two days later after the letter began to circulate more widely." Giuliani campaign aides, according to the article, "said prior commitments -- specifically fund-raisers in Houston and New York -- had forced him to back out of Wednesday's forum." The Daily News also reported that "IAFF spokesman Jeff Zack said yesterday that, following Giuliani's decision to back out of the forum, the full letter would be e-mailed to all 280,000 members -- representing 85% of the nation's firefighters -- with some additional explanation of the dustup."
From the March 9 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
SUZANNE MALVEAUX (CNN White House correspondent): An old dispute is coming back to haunt a leading presidential campaign. It is a grudge by firefighters dating back to the 9-11 terror attacks against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. CNN's Mary Snow joins us from New York with the story. Obviously a lot of controversy here.
SNOW: There is, Suzanne. And that old wound is being exposed by a new rift. At issue: The nation's largest firefighters union is angry that Rudy Giuliani has declined an invitation to attend a forum with presidential candidates with both parties next Wednesday. Union members vow to tell what they describe as the real story of Giuliani and 9-11.
[begin video clip]
SNOW: Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, friend to the first responder. It's a familiar image on the campaign trail.
GIULIANI: Put your mask on.
SNOW: Giuliani's candidacy has been largely defined by 9-11. But the International Association of Fire Fighters is vowing to expose what it describes as Giuliani's offensive and personal attack on firefighters following the September 11th attacks.
HAROLD SCHAITBERGER (IAFF president): For this union, but more importantly, so many of our members, it's an act that will not be forgiven or forgotten.
SNOW: It was November of 2001. Then-Mayor Giuliani reduced the number of firefighters allowed to enter the pile at Ground Zero to recover remains, citing safety concerns.
GIULIANI: We were given very, very strong advice several weeks ago that this site was a disaster waiting to happen.
SNOW: Firefighters protested, saying they wanted to continue searching for the remains of their brethren. When firefighters tried to enter the pile, raw emotions spilled over.
POLICE OFFICER: Calm down!
SNOW: Fifteen firefighters were arrested.
SCHAITBERGER: The mayor, I believe, showed disrespect in understanding the importance of allowing us to continue with that recovery.
SNOW: The IAFF is angry again -- this time, that Giuliani won't attend the union's upcoming forum, where presidential candidates make their case to members.
Giuliani's supporters like retired New York City firefighter Lee Ielpi are coming to his defense. Ielpi lost his son, also a firefighter, on 9-11. He's now part of the campaign group Firefighters for Rudy. He accuses the union of partisan politics and points out that the IAFF endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry in 2004.
LEE IELPI (Firefighters for Rudy): And it's turned into nothing more than another -- one of those political venues, where they figure they can use their power to sway an election. And I think it's really tasteless that they're doing it this way.
[end video clip]
SNOW: A Giuliani aide says Giuliani's schedule prevented him from attending next week's forum. The head of the group Firefighters for Rudy responded for the campaign, saying it was honored by the support of so many first responders. Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Do you have a sense of who else is going to be at the forum?
SNOW: Checking with candidates today -- the major Democratic candidates, Senator Hillary [Rodham] Clinton [D-NY], Senator Barack Obama [D-IL], former Senator John Edwards [D-NC], all planning to be there. On the Republican side, former Governor Mitt Romney [R-MA] is not scheduled to attend, and Senator John McCain's [R-AZ] office says that they are trying to work it out, but it's definitely not a yes at this point.
MALVEAUX: Mary, thanks so much.
From the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: The 270,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters says it will not support former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's race for the Republican presidential nomination because of his actions after 9-11. Union leaders complained that Giuliani reduced the number of firefighters involved in the recovery operation at the World Trade Center and instituted what they call a scoop-and-dump operation to expedite the cleanup, which the union says was disrespectful to the victims.
In 2004, it's worth noting, the IAFF was the first labor union to endorse Democrat John Kerry's race for the president [sic], and its president was at Kerry's side through much of the campaign.
Need a break here now to pay bills and update other headlines.