CNN, NY Times, Wash. Post uncritically repeated Giuliani's claim that anti-Giuliani firefighter unions are partisan

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In a July 11 report on a new online video critical of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) 9-11 record, CNN correspondent Carol Costello uncritically reported the claim by Giuliani's presidential campaign that the union that produced the video, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)," is "partisan" and "has a long history of backing Democratic presidential candidates." Blogs on the websites of The New York Times and The Washington Post also reported the Giuliani campaign's rebuttal. However, neither CNN nor the Post and Times blogs noted that the IAFF issued an "e-mail press release" -- posted on a USA Today blog at 2:50 p.m. ET on July 11 -- noting that the group has endorsed Republican candidates in other recent races. Moreover, these outlets ignored the fact that IAFF Local 94 -- listed in the video's end credits as having "cooperat[ed]" and "participat[ed]" in the production of the video -- endorsed President Bush in 2004, as Media Matters for America noted.

During the 5 p.m. ET hour of The Situation Room, Costello reported: "Giuliani has faced similar criticism before and has dismissed it as politically motivated. The Giuliani campaign says that the firefighters' union has a long history of backing Democratic presidential candidates."

In his 2:14 p.m. ET post July 11 on the Post's political blog, The Fix, staff writer Chris Cillizza wrote:

The essence of Giulian's [sic] beef with IAFF is that it is a partisan organization with a history of supporting Democrats for president.

"International Association of Partisan Politics" blares the release from the Giuliani campaign.

In his 6:09 p.m. ET post July 11 on the Times' political blog, The Caucus, reporter Marc Santora wrote:

The Giuliani campaign responded forcefully even before the video was released, calling on two loyalists with long ties to the New York City Fire Department to rebut the charges. The Giuliani campaign was also quick to point out that the union endorsed [2004 Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry in the last election and has supported Senator Hillary Clinton [D-NY].

However, none of these reports noted that IAFF general president Harold A. Schaitberger released a July 11 statement in response to the Giuliani campaign's rebuttal pointing out that, in 2006, the IAFF had endorsed Republican Govs. Charlie Crist (FL) and Jim Douglas (VT). By contrast, USA Today staff writer Mark Memmott noted Schaitberger's statement in a 2:50 p.m. ET update to a post on the paper's On Politics blog.

Similarly, ABC News noted in a July 11 article that the IAFF endorsed then-Reps. Curt Weldon (R-PA) and John Sweeney (R-NY) in the 2006 election. Politico senior writer Jonathan Martin also challenged the Giuliani campaign's criticism of the IAFF as "partisan" in a 2:38 p.m. ET post on his blog:

"INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PARTISAN POLITICS," blares the headline, a play on the group's full name. "True To Form, IAFF Union Bosses Once Again Attack Republican Presidential Candidate," reads the subhead.

Included in the document is a trove of research designed to cast the group as mere Democratic lackeys who always back Democratic presidential candidates and president Harold Schaitberger as the biggest liberal water-carrier of the bunch.

Not included in [Giuliani's] oppo is any mention of the fact that the IAFF is known as one of the least partisan unions, especially on Capitol Hill. They give thousands to GOP candidates, endorse more than a few and are generally known as the least hostile of labor groups to the Republican cause. Rudy is right that they are certainly disinclined to ever support a national GOP candidate, but the irony is that a moderate, Northeastern Republican is exactly the kind they could get behind.

Furthermore, IAFF Local 94 -- which represents New York City-area firefighters and is listed in the video's end credits as having "cooperat[ed]" and "participat[ed]" in its production -- endorsed President Bush during the 2004 Republican National Convention, as Media Matters noted. Media critic and blogger Greg Sargent further noted that "a quick Nexis search confirms that IAFF's largest New York City affiliate, the Uniformed Firefighters Association [IAFF Local 94], actually endorsed Rudy himself both times he ran victoriously for Mayor, in 1997 and 1993, and when he ran and lost in 1989.

From the 5 p.m. hour of the July 11 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

COSTELLO: Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is coming under fire from the country's largest firefighters union. It's putting out a video critical of his leadership before and after the 9-11 terror attacks, including his decision to locate key emergency operations inside the World Trade Center, even after the 1993 bombing.

EDDIE BROWN (trustee, IAFF Local 94) [video clip]: Well, he's the one that made the decision to put their bunker in 7 World Trade Center, which -- when I was down there on 9-11, that day, I've seen police detectives yelling in the streets that we told him not to put it here, you know, because that was the target of the terrorists.

COSTELLO: Now, Giuliani has faced similar criticism before and has dismissed it as politically motivated. The Giuliani campaign says that the firefighters' union has a long history of backing Democratic presidential candidates.

The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN
Carol Costello, Chris Cillizza
The Situation Room
2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.