MSNBC's O'Donnell Slams Back on Benghazi By Claiming al-Qaeda 'Accomplice' Rudy Giuliani Caused Firefighter Deaths on 9/11

Twitchy, among others noticed this odious tweet from Lawrence O’Donnell last night: “Giuliani attacked POTUS last night for Benghazi so I am forced to remind Giuliani how many firefighters were killed on 9/11 because of him.” Fox host Eric Bolling demanded O'Donnell be fired.

But O’Donnell performed a longer version on his Last Word show on MSNBC last night: “And the urban legend, Rudy Giuliani is in the rewrite tonight. He has once again provoked me to remind you how much damage that man did to New York on 9/11.” After he slammed Rudy as an “unwitting accomplice of al-Qaeda’s,” O’Donnell borrowed heavily from a firefighter’s-union TV ad that FactCheck.org flagged for exaggeration back in 2007.

O’DONNELL: Here is urban legend, Rudy Giuliani pretending last night that back in his days as mayor of New York, he was a successful terrorism fighter.

CLIP OF RUDY  GIULIANI: I truly believe that if competent decisions were made, the four people in Benghazi who are now dead would now be alive, and I`m not just talking about that t. I`m talking about in the six months before that. I believe that political necessities trumped sensible security decisions. There is no possible way, if I had found out for six months that one of my police precincts was being attacked I would deprive of it security. And if I did, there is no possible way the New York press corps would let me get away with it.

O`DONNELL: No possible way. No. No. You know, the fact that Rudy Giuliani was an unwitting accomplice of Al-Qaeda`s has mostly escaped attention outside of New York which is why Giuliani was in Boston today campaigning with Republican Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez at the location of the Boston marathon bombing.

For the moment, never mind the depravity of Giuliani and Gomez using the Boston marathon location as a political campaign stop. Let`s, tonight, focus on the decisions Rudy Giuliani made that killed fighters on 9/11. Here`s what happened when Giuliani tried to play his superhero role while testifying to the 9/11 commission in New York City. [video clip]

O`DONNELL: That was the mother of a New York city firefighter who was telling Giuliani that her son was murdered because of Giuliani`s incompetence. The World Trade Center was attacked by al-Qaeda in 1993. The bombing killed six people and injured more than a thousand. A report issued later showed that the firefighters` radios did not work when they responded to that first attack on the world trade center eight years would have 9/11. Giuliani took seven years to replace those radios. And he did it through a sweetheart deal w a no-bid contract. Six months before 9/11, Giuliani replaced the defective radios with a new set of radios that also did not work.

After clips of firefighters saying they missed two evacuation orders, O’Donnell added: "The 9/11 commission which included politician friends of Rudy Giuliani  concluded a technical failure of FDNY radios was a contributing factor to many of the firefighter fatalities in the north tower. Now, there is an official finding that Rudy Giuliani`s gross incompetence and possible corruption in awarding a no-bid contract cost firefighters their lives. Giuliani has never apologized."

Now let’s go to what FactCheck.org – a group of “mainstream” media veterans led by former Wall Street Journal and CNN reporter Brooks Jackson – said about this in 2007. Quoting the 9/11 Commission, they found it correct that Giuliani had failed to fix the radios until early 2001, and then had to recall the new ones for malfunctions, but said the fog-of-9/11 story was more complex:

For one thing, it says an evacuation order was given 56 minutes before the North Tower collapsed but fails to mention that the first evacuation order was a false alarm.  It is true that one senior fire chief issued an order to evacuate the North Tower at 9:32 a.m. and that nobody responded. But this order came on the heels of a rumor that a third plane was headed for the towers, both of which were still standing at the time. "Once the rumor of the third plane was debunked, other chiefs continued operations," the 9/11 Commission report states.

At that point the department's leaders had no fear that either tower was about to come down.

9/11 Commission: To our knowledge, none of the chiefs present believed that a total collapse of either tower was possible. One senior chief did articulate his concern that upper floors could begin to collapse in a few hours, and that firefighters thus should not ascend above floors in the 60s. That opinion was not conveyed to chiefs in the North Tower lobby, and there is no evidence that it was conveyed to chiefs in the South Tower lobby either.

In fact, far from pressing any evacuation order, department chiefs continued to dispatch additional units to the World Trade Center until minutes before the South Tower collapsed, at 9:59. After that, the North Tower stood for another 29 minutes, and a clearly communicated order to evacuate firefighters might well have saved at least some of those who died there. However, the orders that actually were given didn't convey the urgency required by department procedures:

9/11 Commission: Evacuation orders did not follow the protocol for giving instructions when a building's collapse may be imminent – a protocol that includes constantly repeating "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" – during the 29 minutes between the fall of the South Tower and that of the North Tower. In addition, most of the evacuation instructions did not mention that the South Tower had collapsed.

Rather than transmitting "mayday, mayday" and "evacuate" for the full 29 minutes, the initial order was a terse "Command to all units in Tower 1, evacuate the building," followed sporadically by other evacuation orders.
 
Radio Failure "Not the Primary Cause"

Nobody can say how many firefighters in the North Tower received the evacuation order and how many didn't. But, contrary to the impression left by the video, a number of firefighters did hear the orders on their radios. According to the 9/11 Commission, “at least 24 of the at most 32 companies who were dispatched to and actually in the North Tower received the evacuation instruction – either via radio or directly from other first responders." The commission report states that two battalion chiefs on the 23rd and 35th floors not only heard an evacuation instruction on the command channel but repeated it to everyone they came across. The chief on the 35th floor shouted repeatedly over a bullhorn, "All FDNY, get the f*** out!"

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis