Friday, July 13, 2007

NY Times Dismisses Criticism of Giuliani

by FAIR
July 13, 2007

When the International Association of Fire Fighters, the nation's largest firefighters union, released a video on July 12 challenging the portrayal of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as a hero of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, New York Times reporter Marc Santora rushed to put out the anti-Giuliani fire. His July 12 story's lead cast doubt on the accuracy of the group's claims, calling the video "at times factually questionable."

But besides quoting Giuliani partisans--who predictably differed with the firefighters--Santora offered little evidence that the video was "factually questionable"; in fact, that phrase could more plausibly be applied to Santora's story. For example, the reporter challenged the video's claim that the Giuliani administration's failure to provide proper radios led to firefighters' deaths on September 11, when they couldn't hear orders to evacuate the towers. (The city had been trying to replace the radios since their poor performance during the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, just before Giuliani first took office
see Extra!, 5-6/07.)

In an attempt to shoot down this charge, Santora wrote that "there is no dispute...that there were communications failures on September 11. But the video highlights the hand-held radios, whereas the central problem, most experts agree, was the failure of a device meant to boost the signal so that it could reach the high floors of the towers."

This is a puzzling claim, since the New York Police Department did, in fact, have radios that were able to function in the towers. As FDNY safety chief Alexander Santora said in the video, "Not a single cop was lost in that building. Why was that? Because they had gotten the word to get out. Our radios weren't working."

And the 9/11 Commission report determined that the signal boosters had actually worked on that day. As Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins wrote in their landmark book, Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11:

In the months immediately after 9/11, [Giuliani fire chief Thomas] Von Essen and other fire department officials began blaming the communications breakdown on malfunctioning repeaters or amplifiers that the Port Authority installed after the '93 bombing. When the [9/11] commission determined that the repeaters in each tower were functional that day, Giuliani tried another version of the same argument, contending that chiefs in the lobby "decided" the repeater "wasn't operable" and "they couldn't use it." Both positions appeared to be attempts to divert attention from the radios. But every investigation that's examined the 9/11 failings—including the [9/11] Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and McKinsey—refused to take the bait.

In fact, the New York Times has previously reported that the National Institute of Standards and Technology investigation found that the boosters were not the problem, writing (4/4/05) that the NIST "report also found that the World Trade Center's high rise communication repeater was working properly, a finding that contradicts claims by some rescue workers."

So who are the "most experts" who dispute the conclusions of the three leading investigations into 9/11? Times readers don't know because Santora didn't tell them. When FAIR asked Wayne Barrett about Santora's claim about the repeaters, he said the New York Times reporter was "simply adopting an old Giuliani line."

The only other example for Santora's claim that the video was "factually questionable" was his assertion that the video "implies" that Giuliani was "more concerned about securing some $200 million in gold stored in a basement vault at the World Trade Center than in recovering the remains of the dead." Santora called this "an accusation widely dismissed by people who closely monitored the cleanup." The question of what Giuliani was "more concerned about" would seem to be a matter of opinion, not fact, but the factual observations made in the video about the timing of the scale-back of search efforts in relation to the recovery of the gold are accurate.

It is very unusual for the New York Times to introduce a political statement like the firefighters' video by labeling it "factually questionable"; the paper could actually do a great deal more to investigate and when necessary rebut political claims. But when political arguments are dismissed with dubious references to the opinions of unnamed "experts" and "people," the Times appears less interested in keeping the political debate honest than in doing damage control for a favored politician.

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