Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is undoubtedly known best for the high-profile role he played after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in Manhattan, which warranted its own Wikipedia page and has been extensively documented in contemporaneous accounts of the day and its aftermath.
In 2016, Giuliani became a prominent surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, stumping for the GOP nominee at the July 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) and making various appearances on behalf of the Trump campaign. During a 15 August 2016 campaign-related speech in Ohio, Giuliani made remarks that were reported as suggesting he “forgot” about the 9/11 attacks, due in large part to sarcastic memes and a truncated video clip and quote that went viral on social media:
Hometown paper amNewYork was typical of much reporting of the event describing Giuliani’s remarks as a “gaffe”:
“Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” [Giuliani] said at a speech in Ohio. “They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.”
Giuliani’s statement leaves out the largest terror attacks in America’s history, for which he was mayor of New York City.
CBS News made reference to Giuliani’s reputation as a man known for frequently recalling the events of that day, noting that Vice President Joe Biden once mocked Giuliani’s fixation on the attack:
That’s an apparent omission of the largest terror attack in United States history. Giuliani was mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 and in the hours after the World Trade Center fell, while then-President George W. Bush was largely unseen, he became the face of American grief and determination.
The comments, which were immediately lampooned on social media, were a far cry from Giuliani’s usual speeches, which are often peppered with references to the resolve New Yorkers displayed after the attacks. In fact, his discussions of the attacks were so common that Vice President Joe Biden once said of him there were “only three things he mentions in a sentence: A noun, a verb and 9/11.”
Some outlets, such as New York City-based blog Gothamist initially mocked what was framed as a mortifying omission on Giuliani’s part but later walked back the assessment after a video of the former mayor’s complete remarks emerged, noting that “it appears Rudy is specifically referring to the eight years after Bush signed the Patriot Act” (on 26 October 2001).
NBC Nightly News editor Bradd Jaffy shared the most relevant portion of that longer clip, which contained important context as well as documenting that Giuliani indeed talked about 9/11 and was referring to the [nearly] eight years after that event (i.e., the remainder of President George W. Bush’s administration) as the period in which “we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States”:
Here’s longer clip that includes context around Rudy’s “before Obama came along” remark. He was talking post-9/11. https://t.co/pzYxPIY0KE
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) August 15, 2016
After the abbreviated version of Giuliani’s remarks went viral, a spokesman for Giuliani offered a similar explanation:
Jake Menges, a spokesman for the former mayor, [said] that Giuliani was referring to a lack of major attacks during the remainder of Bush’s term.
The logic behind Rudy Giuliani’s comments was definitely subjective, but Menges’ statement was consistent with what the former mayor actually said (even though it may have been unclear or misleading). Giuliani clearly didn’t “forget” about 9/11 after just having spoken about it at length; he just didn’t feel the event warranted inclusion in what he described as an increasing number of attacks linked to Islamic fundamentalists that have occurred in recent years (i.e., during the Obama administration).