Controversy Over Rudy Giuliani's Participation in 9/11 Anniversary

This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 29, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JULIE BANDERAS, "BIG STORY" GUEST HOST: The "Big Showdown": He's never missed an anniversary since the 9/11 attacks, but people are all riled up about Rudy Giuliani's plan to speak at this year's upcoming memorial events. Critics not only say the former New York mayor lied about the air quality down at Ground Zero, they're also saying Giuliani is just using 9/11 as a powerful political weapon now that he's running for president in 2008.

New York's current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says he has extended the invite to Giuliani, and the GOP candidate's camp says it's not an unusual gesture. Giuliani's senior adviser is even saying: "He's down there to pay his respects. As mayor, he not only lost personal friends, he lost people who put their lives in harm's way for his city. To say he's politicizing it, he never would do anything like that."

With me now is Democratic strategist and FOX News political analyst Kirsten Powers and Republican strategist Karen Hanretty.

Thank you both for coming on. Karen, I want to go to you first. Mayor Giuliani, and this is a fact, has spoken at Ground Zero every 9/11 since 2001. Is this year any different in your eyes?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, it's not any different. Look, Rudy Giuliani may be a villain to a few people, but he is a hero to far many others. And I think it's appropriate that the former mayor of New York City who showed such great leadership is going to attend this event just as, I night add, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will be attending the event. She's attended every event with the exception of 2004 when her husband was having heart surgery, but it's very appropriate that people who are part of this tragic moment in our history are there to commemorate and help heal with the families who are still suffering.

BANDERAS: OK, but is the criticism fair that Giuliani is coming out? Because once again, New York Senator Hillary Clinton will be attending, but this time it's a little different, Kirsten, she wasn't asked to speak.

KIRSTEN POWERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah, well I think you have to remember who's complaining about it. And the people who are complaining about it, it's the firefighters and then it's people who were firefighters on 9/11. It's people who lost, you know, their coworkers, that some of the people who are complaining are parents of firefighters. And those are the people who are complaining. And as you know, they put out a video a couple of months ago basically saying that Rudy Giuliani has been using 9/11 for political purposes and exaggerating his role to a certain extent and also taking him to task for some of his shortcomings, such as not providing them with the type of radios they needed, that they knew they needed because they hadn't worked during the first attack on the World Trade Center.

BANDERAS: Karen, is Mayor Giuliani, former Mayor Giuliani, now Republican presidential candidate, exaggerating his role in 9/11?

HANRETTY: Look, Mayor Giuliani played a tremendous leadership role in a situation like no other in American history, and there's no denying the leadership he showed. And let's be very specific about why Hillary Clinton has not been asked to speak. It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with how they are formatting the event. They've made a decision in the past that only current — mayors of New York and governors of New York and New Jersey are going to speak. They're not asking either of New York State's senators to speak.

POWERS: He did overstate his role. He claimed that he was down at Ground Zero as much as the people who were actually down there doing the recovery efforts and we know that that's not true. We know that he actually spent a fraction — they figured out about seven percent of the amount of time that the rescue workers were spending down there, and he was equating what he was doing with what they were doing and it's not the same thing. And in fact, when they looked at what he was doing when he was down there, he was giving tours to dignitaries. That is not the same thing as what the firefighters were doing.


HANRETTY: You know, I think it's interesting that in the middle as a lot of these families continue to heal, that there are always going to be agitators who want to agitate for their own political ends as opposed to — which I think is what is happening with some of these firefighters' unions and other people involved in politics who want to agitate against Rudy Giuliani as opposed to making this commemorative event about the families and the families of the victims.

POWERS: Karen, just to be clear about what you're saying, that you're accusing these people of exploiting the deaths of their children and the deaths of their friends? Let's just be clear that that's what you're saying.

HANRETTY: No, Kirsten, but that is exactly what I would expect you to say.

POWERS: That's what you just said.

HANRETTY: And I think you are agitating. And I think — no, I think...

POWERS: That's exactly what you just said, that they're only doing it for political reasons.

BANDERAS: OK guys. I'm sorry guys...

HANRETTY: No, Kirsten. There are agitators in politics who are going to agitate against Rudy Giuliani and you're doing a fine job of it today.

BANDERAS: All right. Karen Hanretty, Kirsten Powers, thank you for doing a fine job and a fair and balanced debate. Always love to have you guys on. Thank you very much.

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