It was a ferocious firestorm of a Friday for former New York Mayor and current presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani began the day by again failing to offer an explanation Friday when confronted with his involvement in recommending Bernard Kerik to lead homeland security in December 2004.
An AP story reported that Giuliani admitted the recommendation was a mistake, but a spokeswoman for Giuliani “declined to explain why Giuliani appointed Kerik police commissioner despite having information about Kerik’s relationship with Interstate Industrial.”
The acknowledgment followed a report in The New York Times that the former New York City mayor was warned about Kerik’s relationship with a company with suspected ties to organized crime even before Giuliani appointed Kerik as New York City police commissioner.
Once nominated by President Bush to head the Homeland Security Department, Kerik pleaded guilty last June to a misdemeanor charge of accepting a gift from Interstate Industrial, which was seeking city work.
Kerik acknowledged accepting $165,000 in renovations on his Bronx apartment from the company. But he never explicitly admitted that his efforts on the company’s behalf were tied to the work on his home.
Giuliani came under further fire Friday surrounding his administration’s handling of New York City before and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
From the Associated Press:
“If Rudolph Giuliani was running on anything but 9/11, I would not speak out,” said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was among the 343 FDNY members killed in the terrorist attack. “If he ran on cleaning up Times Square, getting rid of squeegee men, lowering crime _ that’s indisputable.
“But when he runs on 9/11, I want the American people to know he was part of the problem.”
Such comments contradict Giuliani’s post-Sept. 11 profile as a hero and symbol of the city’s resilience _ the steadfast leader who calmed the nerves of a rattled nation. But as the presidential campaign intensifies, criticisms of his 2001 performance are resurfacing.
Giuliani, the leader in polls of Republican voters for his party’s nomination, has been faulted on two major issues:
_ His administration’s failure to provide the World Trade Center’s first responders with adequate radios, 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.
Regenhard, at a 2004 commission hearing in Manhattan, screamed at Giuliani, “My son was murdered because of your incompetence!” The hearing was a perfect example of the 9/11 duality: Commission members universally praised Giuliani at the same event.
_ A November 2001 decision to step up removal of the massive rubble pile at ground zero. The firefighters were angered when the then-mayor reduced their numbers among the group searching for remains of their lost “brothers,” focusing instead on what they derided as a “scoop and dump” approach. Giuliani agreed to increase the number of firefighters at ground zero just days after ordering the cutback.
More than 5 1/2 years later, body parts are still turning up in the trade center site.
“We want America to know what this guy meant to New York City firefighters,” said Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. “In our experiences with this man, he disrespected us in the most horrific way.”
The two-term mayor, in his appearance before the Sept. 11 Commission, said the blame for the death and destruction of Sept. 11 belonged solely with the terrorists. “There was not a problem of coordination on Sept. 11,” he testified.
Giuliani was also criticized for locating the city’s emergency center in 7 World Trade Center, a building that contained thousands of gallons of diesel fuel when it collapsed after the terrorist attack.
The lingering ill will between Giuliani and firefighters was resurrected when the International Association of Fire Fighters initially decided not to invite the former mayor to its March 14 candidates forum in Washington. Other prominent presidential hopefuls, including Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, addressed the nation’s largest firefighters union.