NEW YORK (Reuters) - Families of September 11 victims and emergency responders raised alarms on Wednesday that former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani might politicize the sixth anniversary memorial of the attacks.
Giuliani has attended all five previous September 11 commemorations but this is the Republican’s first engagement as a presidential candidate seeking the White House.
“Families and first responders are outraged and call for this speaking invitation to be rescinded and insist that politics be kept out of the 9/11 anniversary ceremony,” said a statement by four September 11 groups.
“Rudy Giuliani should attend in silence with other invited guests.”
Giuliani leads Republicans in national opinion polls for the November 2008 presidential elections largely on the strength of his performance as New York’s mayor on September 11, 2001. On Wednesday, he announced he had formed a “first responders” group of supporters to defend his record as mayor.
While many voters remember Giuliani’s steely and reassuring presence that day, critics say he made a series of blunders that kept police and fire commanders from communicating with each other and that he halted recovery efforts before all the victims’ remains were recovered.
Giuliani senior adviser Tony Carbonetti said the candidate would attend out of respect for the victims, not politics.
“If you know Rudy Giuliani, he’d be down there paying his respects whether he was invited or not,” Carbonetti said in a statement. “To say he’s politicizing it — he never would do anything like that.”
Groups called the 9/11 Firefighters & Families for Truth, WTC Families for Proper Burial, 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters & WTC Victims, and September 11th Advocates said Giuliani has “perpetuated his ‘grand illusion’ of hero rather than account for the failures.”
In addition, the International Association of Fire Fighters, a national labor union, launched a video and Web site last month featuring testimony from firefighters and family members criticizing Giuliani. The union endorsed Democratic candidate Sen. Christopher Dodd on Wednesday.
The Giuliani support group, unveiled in the early voting state of South Carolina, will help him fight back. It is led by Howard Safir, the former fire and police commissioner in New York.
“I saw how well he supported firefighters when I was commissioner,” Safir said in an interview. “He’s fearless. He is going to protect this country and there is not another candidate out there who comes close to him.”
“This is just politics,” Safir said of the attacks.