Whitman Comes to Giuliani’s Defense

" ... Before yesterday, she had repeatedly faulted the city for not forcing rescue and recovery workers at ground zero to wear respirators to protect them from the toxic dust in the air. Mr. Giuliani and his aides have countered that Ms. Whitman and the EPA told them the air was safe to breathe. ... "
By RUSSELL BERMAN

FOR ENTIRE STORY: http://www.nysun.com/article/57326
June 26, 2007

Christine Todd Whitman, testifying yesterday before the House Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties subcommittee hearing on the federal environmental response at ground zero after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City.

WASHINGTON — For one day at least, Mayor Giuliani and his September 11 legacy were spared.

Facing the anger and scorn of Democratic lawmakers and a hearing room full of former ground zero rescue workers, Christine Todd Whitman yesterday had her best chance to take a swipe at the former mayor and current presidential contender, and to blame him and his administration for failing to enforce safety precautions at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks nearly six years ago. Instead, Ms. Whitman, the former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, came to the city's — and Mr. Giuliani's — defense.

"I think the city of New York did absolutely everything in its power to do what was right by the citizens of New York," Ms. Whitman told a House subcommittee yesterday, when asked directly by Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey if the city "acted responsibly" following the attacks.

In offering the city such a sweeping compliment, Ms. Whitman ratcheted down a long-fought battle with Mr. Giuliani and gave a reprieve to his presidential campaign, which has relied heavily on the former mayor's reputation for calm and decisive leadership in the chaotic months after September 11, 2001.

Before yesterday, she had repeatedly faulted the city for not forcing rescue and recovery workers at ground zero to wear respirators to protect them from the toxic dust in the air. Mr. Giuliani and his aides have countered that Ms. Whitman and the EPA told them the air was safe to breathe.

As recently as Friday, the Giuliani campaign responded to an interview she gave to WNBC by releasing a statement from a former deputy mayor, Joseph Lhota, saying Ms. Whitman "never voiced any of these concerns at the time" and calling her claims "revisionist at best."

Ms. Whitman, a Republican who served as governor of New Jersey before President Bush picked her to head the EPA in 2001, sought the high road at yesterday's hearing. ...