While he touts his leadership in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as a key component of his 2008 presidential bid, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is facing bitter opposition from the union representing the 343 firefighters who died that day.
FOX News has obtained a scathing letter prepared by the influential and politically active International Association of Fire Fighters union, written late last month but never released. The letter informs the more than 270,000 members that it would not be inviting Giuliani to a forum for presidential candidates on March 14, citing what the union called Giuliani's "egregious acts" after Sept. 11.
In the letter, the IAFF, whose president Harold Schaitberger is a longtime supporter of Democratic Sen. John Kerry, blames the former Big Apple mayor for "unforgivable" post-terror attacks decisions, including reducing the number of firefighters involved in the recovery operation and instituting a "scoop and dump" operation to expedite cleanup, which the union says shows a "disgraceful lack of respect" for the victims.
It also attacks Giuliani's devotion to fallen firefighters, arguing that the changes in the cleanup operation followed the recovery of millions in gold and silver from Ground Zero. The reversed course shows Giuliani "valued money and gold … more than the lives and memories of those lost."
The union says the mayor's actions "rise to such an offensive and personal attack … that the IAFF does not feel Rudy Giuliani deserves an audience." It also recommends that if the Giuliani campaign approaches members asking for support in 2008, union members should tell Giuliani "not just 'no' but 'hell no.'"
That letter was never sent. Ultimately, IAFF officials decided that every candidate should be present at the forum. Sources apparently told New York Newsday that Giuliani's campaign learned of the union's plan and worked behind the scenes to secure an invitation to the event.
But now that the fire has been put out, so to speak, the candidate's campaign has revealed that Giuliani won't attend the event due to a scheduling conflict.
Last month, Giuliani met with firefighters in South Carolina, and touted his Sept. 11 credentials to appeal to them as a candidate. He stressed that one of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's duties is to make sure first responders "have the training and protection you need to defend your country."
"The first people that arrive on the scene of the bombing or the anthrax attack ... it's going to be one of your brothers or your sisters or you that gets to do it," Giuliani told about 200 emergency workers. "Your ability to do it well will once again determine if we save lives, save America."
The IAFF was the first labor union to endorse Kerry in 2004, and dedicated resources to a Kerry presidential victory. Its political action committee, FIREPAC, also doles out millions of dollars in political contributions, mostly to Democratic candidates and causes.
But an IAFF spokesman noted for FOX News that 30 percent of its PAC money went to Republican candidates in 2006, and while IAFF endorsed Kerry in 2004, the group's New York local chapter supported President Bush in his re-election.
FOX News' Aaron Bruns, Matthew Alexander and Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.