New York's leaders keep US informed as tragedy unfolds

NEW YORK: The communications skills of New York's top politicians

were put to the ultimate test last week, as they wrestled to express

messages of sorrow, sympathy, anger, and dismay while giving out

practical information.

Top media aides for Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and the two New

York Senators (Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton), set about

organizing a series of impromptu press events aimed at keeping the

public informed about the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center


New York politicians were on the air most of the day, openly admitting

there were questions they simply couldn't answer.

Mayor Giuliani was by far the most visible politician on Tuesday,

visiting the WTC just ten minutes before it collapsed mid-morning.

Throughout the day, Giuliani's message was simple: "The focus of our

efforts is recovering as many people as we can and saving lives." He

avoided putting numbers on the death toll.

Mid-afternoon, Giuliani and Governor Pataki held a joint conference

asking for people to stay out of Manhattan and announcing the arrival of

the national guard to assist the emergency services.

Around midnight, Giuliani, flanked by fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen

and police chief Bernard Kerik, showed both sensitivity and firmness in

dealing with the deaths of high-ranking fire officials and potential

public-disorder issues. Giuliani said he would come down hard on those

involved in price gauging, looting, and racially motivated attacks.

By the following day, Giuliani, wearing a variety of NYPD and FDNY caps

and jackets, allowed cameras to tour "ground zero," the area where the

towers once stood.

Later on, at a separate conference, Giuliani invited all potential

mayoral candidates to a briefing to get them involved in the relief

effort. The mayoral primary was to have been held Tuesday.

Governor Pataki spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday liaising with

federal agencies, as well as requesting financial assistance along with

the presence of the national guard.

Carrying seven press releases Tuesday and six on Wednesday, Pataki's

website gave some indication as to how hard his press reps have been

working to provide information to the media.

Senator Clinton, present at some of Giuliani's conferences with Senator

Schumer, called for the New York skyline to be rebuilt.

Clinton also made a moving statement on the floor of the US Senate, but

cancelled a late-night appearance with Peter Jennings on ABC.

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