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CNN's Blitzer: Is deputy fire chief trying to 'swiftboat' Giuliani?
Greg Wasserstrom and Mike Aivaz
Published: Wednesday November 21, 2007
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New York City Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches does not want to see his former mayor become president.

As head of the group 9/11 Firefighters and Families, Riches works tirelessly to spread the message that Rudy Guiliani failed his first responders on 9/11. Riches appeared on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer to discuss what he's trying to do. While former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir also appeared to defend Giuliani's record.

"Let's get right to the issue," Blitzer said. "Are you trying to 'swiftboat' Rudy Giuliani?"

"No, we're going to set the record straight on 9/11 and we don't think he's the hero he says he was or the leader," Riches said.

Riches, who lost his son when the Towers collapsed, faults Giuliani for the Fire Department's faulty radios, a lack of training at the World Trade Center, an inept Office of Emergency Management, and "incompetent and cowardly" police and fire commissioners.

"I take it that you're thinking of starting what's called a 527, a committee that would raise money to go after a specific candidate without being involved in any another candidate, is that right?" Blizter asked.

"We're all from different-, we're conservatives, we're Democrats and I voted for Bush and I voted for Giuliani three times," Riches said, "This is not political, this is strictly about his leadership."

Riches also rejected claims by the Giuliani campaign that his group was politicizing 9/11.

"Well, that's a lie because they've politicized it from day one and if he wants to run on his record of failure and everything else then let him run on it, but we're going to set the truth out," Riches said.

Riches's group has been visible in the past days in the media and in the early primary state of New Hampshire. The group was in the State meeting with local media and holding events, countering a Giuliani ad released the same day touting the candidate's 9/11 credentials, according to a DNC press release.

Giuliani's opponents for the nomination are also beginning to poke at the former mayor's constant invocation of 9/11 on the campaign trail. In a CNBC interview recently, Giuliani said in defense of waterboarding, "I'm very reluctant to take away presidential prerogatives and decision making, maybe because I've faced crisis more than the other ones have."

Retorted rival John McCain, "I do not know which 'crisis' the mayor may have been talking about. My experience goes back to the Cuban missile crisis and every conflict we've been in since."

Responding to Riches allegations, former New York City Police and Fire commissioner Howard Safir, head of the group First Responders for Giuliani, said that despite all Riches' years of dutiful service to the city, he simply has his facts wrong.

"If you took a look at the Rand Report that took a look at the emergency response to 9/11, they say it was an excellent response," Safir said. He also downplayed the role the notorious faulty radios had in the deaths of Firefighters. "If you look in the 9/11 Commission Report, it clearly says that 24 of the 32 companies in the North Tower that Chief Riches said were killed because of lack of radios actually had communication and were notified of the evacuation order."

Safir also went on to say that Giuliani displayed no cowardice that morning as Riches suggests, but was whisked away by security because "he was not there to operationally fight the fires." Safir says that by making these claims against Giuliani, Riches and his group denigrate the heroism of those who died on 9/11.

Though Safir is close to the Giuliani campaign, there has been no word about Riches' and his group's allegations from the campaign itself.

The full DNC press release on the Giuliani ad is available at this link.

Read more about 911 Firefighters and Families activities in New Hampshire here.

More on John McCain's potshot is available at this link.

More video on Jim Riches is available on Crooks and Liars.

The following video is from CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, broadcast on November 20, 2007:

The following video is from CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, broadcast on November 20, 2007