Matthews: "Ultimate street politician" Giuliani was "on the curb" with "soot on his face" on 9-11

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, called Republican presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani "the ultimate street politician," adding, "He was there on the curb when 9-11 struck. He had soot on his face." He also called Giuliani a "street fighter" and described him as "somebody who's clear and present and right there answering our questions," and who "gives us the awful truth."

As Media Matters for America has noted, Matthews has repeatedly lauded Giuliani for being "on the street corner" during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. However, authors Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins wrote in their book, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (HarperCollins, August 2006), that when Giuliani heard about the disaster, his "original destination" wasn't "the curb" or "the street corner" but rather his "much-ballyhooed command center" in the World Trade Center complex (Page 6). According to Barrett and Collins, then-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, "who was waiting to meet [Giuliani], decided it was too dangerous to bring the mayor up to the command center [Giuliani] had so carefully and expensively built" (Page 340).

According to Barrett and Collins, Giuliani selected 7 World Trade Center as the site of his Office of Emergency Management's (OEM) command center after "overrul[ing]" warnings from a previous police commissioner, Howard Safir, and NYPD chief operating officer Lou Anemone not to locate it there and "[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. Thus, Barrett and Collins concluded that if the command center had not posed such a safety risk to Giuliani, "all the dramatic visuals ... would instead have been tense but tame footage from its barren press conference room" (Page 41).

During the May 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, while discussing Giuliani's performance on 9-11, HBO host Bill Maher asserted that "the reason why [Giuliani] was on the streets that day is because his office was blown up," adding, "All of the experts told him to move the command-and-control center out of the World Trade Center. He put it in the World Trade Center." Maher also said: "He's not a terrorism fighter. He has no credentials in this. In fact, he failed at the one time he had an opportunity, just like Bush." In response, Matthews asked, "So, why do people think he did serve well and perform well, as the leader of New York, during that crisis? Why do people think that?"

Additionally, during his June 12 appearance on Morning Joe, Matthews said of Giuliani: "[P]eople who've dealt with him in New York over the years -- the press, the police, minorities -- don't like him." But beyond mentioning Giuliani's "brusque style," Matthews did not provide other reasons cited by first responders for criticizing Giuliani. New York City's firefighters have also been critical of Giuliani for what they cite as his failure to ensure that the New York police and fire departments had interoperable radios, as Media Matters has repeatedly documented. According to Barrett and Collins, "Everyone agrees that a critical problem that day was that the police and fire departments could not communicate; that's one of the reasons the lack of interoperable radios became such a focus of fury." (Page 343) Indeed, 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), as 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."

As Media Matters has also noted, in a March 15 article, Cox News Service reported: "As revered as he is by many for his efforts after the attacks, Giuliani is reviled by some firefighters who believe he mishandled the development of a radio system that could have saved lives on 9/11 and turned his back on first responders' remains in the rubble." On March 30, the Associated Press further noted criticisms by the IAFF and by Sally Regenhard, chairwoman of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and mother of a firefighter killed on 9-11. The AP noted that the Giuliani "administration's failure to provide the World Trade Center's first responders with adequate radios [is] a long-standing complaint from relatives of the firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed. The Sept. 11 Commission noted the firefighters at the World Trade Center were using the same ineffective radios employed by the first responders to the 1993 terrorist attack on the trade center."

From the June 12 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (host): This guy is getting votes from a large chunk of Evangelicals, despite the fact he is pro-choice, and if that's the case, who stops him?

MATTHEWS: Well, I just think it comes down to this, Joe. Every time there's a presidential election -- and this has nothing to do with ideology or partisanship -- the people try to solve the current problem. Back when it was Eisenhower against Truman, I mean, Truman was bogged down in Korea, and he was a bit -- a little tainted, let's put it that way, so they brought in a general as clean as a hound's tooth who had received the Nazi surrender who said, "I will go to Korea."

And in '60, Eisenhower looked like he had lost a few steps because of the U2 and Cuba and Sputnik, and we bring in the youngest guy ever elected. It seems like, throughout our history, we're always solving the problem, even to the point in 19 -- or rather 2000, when we had the Monica mess, we brought in a guy with a very regular marriage, and he said, "When I take the oath to the Constitution, I mean to -- I promise to protect the dignity of the Oval Office." And he got close enough to get it in Florida, so what's the problem right now?

It's a president who seems to be not in touch with on-the-ground American and Iraqi reality, who seems to be either distracted or theoretical or somehow not tied down to the hard-core street reality.

Now, Rudy's the ultimate street politician. He was there on the curb when 9-11 struck. He had soot on his face. He seems like he doesn't have a ranch or a place to go to. He's always there, right in your face, dealing with reality. I think that's what -- with all his aggravations and personality stuff and roughness -- I think that's what people are looking for: somebody who's clear and present and right there answering our questions, not rolling disclosure, telling us what a committee's gonna tell us.

The problem with Hillary of course, in the end, is that she will be -- not lazy; she's not lazy -- but she'll be coming at us with -- after she's met with her advisers, and she's groomed an answer, like she does on the war, and she'll finally come out three or four days later with some sort of perfectly fashioned answer that's been tested, and we won't really feel that it's the truth -- the hard truth we need.

Rudy, for all his awfulness in many ways, gives us the awful truth, I think. At least, that's the way people are taking him right now.

SCARBOROUGH: When you say "all his awfulness," you're talking about his --

MATTHEWS: His manner -- his brusque manner. The fact that people who've dealt with him in New York over the years -- the press, the police, minorities -- don't like him. I'm always impressed when I meet reporters who covered him in New York, 'cause I had no problem at all with him, who meet him and say, "He's awful. He's just awful." Because he is a street fighter.

SCARBOROUGH: He's a tough guy.

MATTHEWS: I mean, he doesn't like a piece you write, he goes to war with you. You know, and I've had that experience with him, actually. I've dealt with him that way.

SCARBOROUGH: And I'll tell you what. And I think you can say that maybe one reason why Richard Nixon, a guy that wasn't cuddly, who you'd want to invite to your Thanksgiving dinner, most likely, Richard Nixon elected in 1968, post-Tet, in the midst of -- in all the mess that's going on over there. So, we'll see. Hey, let's talk about --

MATTHEWS: So, right now, it's Rudy. I think you're on the ball.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Rudy Giuliani, 2008 Elections
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