MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A powerful firefighters union went after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Wednesday for claiming to be their defender and champion in his Iowa caucuses victory speech.
"What Ted Cruz did the other night in his Iowa victory speech is disgusting," said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. "He said he embraces fire fighters and the dangerous work they do, says he’s our friend and calls himself a great patriot. But when it came time to actually have the backs of fire fighters across the U.S., he was AWOL. Cruz is the worst kind of politician who will say or do anything to get elected."
That anger stems from Cruz invoking the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the work of the first responders in his remarks Monday night, when he said he would be different from President Barack Obama.
"To the police officers, and the firemen and the first responders, the heroes who rushed in to burning buildings instead of out of burning buildings -- the last seven years of having a president, having an attorney general that demonizes you, that vilifies you, that sides with the criminals and looters instead of the brave men and women of law enforcement -- that will end on Jan. 20, 2017," he said.
But what irks Schaitberger is that Cruz opposed reauthorizing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides health care for those same firefighters and first responders.
More than 72,000 people are monitored by the 9/11 health program, and 33,000 ailing responders rely on it for treatment.
"He left the 9/11 responders behind," Schaitberger said. "If those are Ted's values, we don't like them. He's the epitome of saying one thing to get votes, then doing another."
Tim Burn, the spokesman for the union, said they plan to do more in the coming days on this issue as well.
Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association representing New York City firefighters, also went after Cruz for his remarks.
"I say to you Senator: You had your chance to stand up for those who rushed into the burning towers on 9/11 and you failed them," Cassidy wrote in the New York Daily News Tuesday. "While sick and dying firefighters spent months in Washington, D.C., working to convince Congress to extend the Zadroga Act and provide healthcare for ill 9/11 responders, Sen. Cruz was nowhere to be found."
The Cruz campaign did not return a request for comment.
After significant lobbying by 9/11 first responders -- and also former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart -- Congress finally passed the $8.1 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. Obama then signed it into law in early January.
Cruz, along with other presidential hopefuls, spoke to the IAFF summit in March, and his remarks didn't go over that well. The IAFF's membership leans Republican, but the union traditionally endorses Democrats because of the party's pro-labor stances.
IAFF had planned to endorse Vice President Joe Biden; after he decided against running for president, the union decided to hold off on endorsing a candidate.
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