Russ Buettner, who earlier this month penned a less than earth-shattering expose on the friendship between Rudy Giuliani and Fox News President Roger Ailes (a story even some liberals found ridiculous) returned to the Times' front page Fridaywith "For Giuliani, Ground Zero as Linchpin and Thorn," taking aim at the heart of Giuliani's candidacy by alleging that Giuliani has exaggerated the amount of time he spent at Ground Zero in the days after the attack on the World Trade Center.
But did the Times apply similar scrutiny to the record of a Democrat who also ran on a record of heroism during crisis - Sen. John Kerry?
"As Rudolph W. Giuliani campaigns around the country highlighting his stewardship of New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, he is widely hailed for bringing order to a traumatized city. But he has also raised the hackles of rescue and recovery workers by likening his experience to theirs.
"On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins 'as often, if not more' than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile.
"Another time he brushed aside safety claims by asserting that his long hours at the site had left him susceptible to 'every health consequence that people have suffered.'
"So, how much time did Mayor Giuliani spend at ground zero?
"A complete record of Mr. Giuliani's exposure to the site is not available for the chaotic six days after the attack, when he was a frequent visitor. But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive, revised after the events to account for last-minute changes on scheduled stops, does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts."
The Times ran a graphic across the top of an inside page, "Logging Giuliani's Time," in which they try to prove Giuliani was exaggerating (even though the chart doesn't include the first week after the attack, a period in which Buettner admitted that Giuliani was a "frequent visitor" to the site).
The New York Times' interest in and scrutiny of Giuliani's 9-11 leadership is understandable, given Giuliani was a successful mayor of the city for eight years (no thanks to the Times). But the criticism does seem outsized, especially considering that the Times never applied similar scrutiny to another candidate running on a record of heroism during war time.
That would be Sen. John Kerry, who during the 2004 campaign for president based his entire run on his brief stint in the Vietnam War, in which he received several service medals, including three Purple Hearts. The Times' Adam Nagourneynoted that in the first Democratic debate of the campaign, held on May 4, 2003: "On at least three separate occasions...Mr. Kerry reminded voters that he had served in Vietnam."
Even when a group of fellow Vietnam Veterans, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, challenged Kerry's medals and memories (and got Kerry's campaign to admit their candidate did not spend Christmas in Cambodia, as he'd claimed on several occasions, including on the Senate floor in 1986), the Times never looked into the accusations raised by the Swift Boat Veterans, instead attacking the group on numerous occasions for relaying "unsubstantiated" charges and being funded by conservatives.