In a letter to its members on Friday, the nation’s largest firefighters union accused Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani of committing “egregious acts” against firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The 280,000 member International Association of Fire Fighters has been angry with Giuliani since his November 2001 decision to cut back the number of firefighters who were searching the site for the remains of 300 of their comrades.

The union has claimed that Giuliani’s main priority was the recovery of millions of dollars in gold, silver and other assets from the Bank of Nova Scotia that had been buried in the rubble after the attacks. “Mayor Giuliani’s actions meant that firefighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like so much garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills landfill,” the letter said, adding: “Hundreds remained entombed in Ground Zero when Giuliani gave up on them. What Giuliani showed is a disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen and those brothers still searching for them.”

The union said that the intent of the letter was,”to make all our members aware of the egregious acts Mayor Giuliani committed against our members, our fallen on 9/11 and our New York City union officers following that horrific day.” Giuliani’s campaign has tried to blunt the impact of the letter by announcing the endorsement of his campaign by 100 South Carolina firefighters. The campaign has also released its own letter from retired New York firefighter Lee Ielpi. “There is no one who respects firefighters and first responders more than Rudy Giuliani,” Ielpi wrote. “Firefighters have no greater friend and supporter.”

The union’s letter was never meant to be released to the public, but after it started to show up on the Internet this week, they decided to release a revised version of the letter with their criticisms intact. I expect that the Giuliani campaign had better prepare for more criticism of his actions after 9/11. It is no longer politically taboo to criticize the politicians in office during and immediately after that terrible day. I have always considered their America’s mayor rhetoric more about political hype than an actual reflection of the mayor’s actions after the attacks. I think Rudy is going to have a tough time winning the GOP nomination even without the firefighters’ criticism.

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