Rudy Giuliani tweeted a video glorifying police and soldiers on Wednesday, the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and critics reacted with horror.
Giuliani, who is now President Donald Trump’s attorney, was the Republican mayor of New York City during the 2001 al-Qaida attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. A law and order executive over two terms in office, his leadership following the tragedy won him national acclaim.
On Wednesday, Giuliani started tweeting about Sept. 11 before 1 a.m. New York time, pledging to “never forget 9/11.” Over the next 10 hours, he shared a series of photos and videos about the tragedy and retweeted posts praising his service at the time.
It was around 2 a.m. that Giuliani posted the video that would prove so controversial, commenting: “GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
Scored with a version of “America the Beautiful,” the clip centers on one police officer as he bravely faces down what appears to be a left-wing street protest. The angry activists hold signs with slogans like “Burn It Down,” and “Police = Fascism.” One man sets an American flag ablaze.
As the officer glowers at the crowd, the video takes viewers back across his life ― from his induction to the police force to his service in the military to him saluting the flag as a youth football player. Finally, the officer is seen as a child watching in awe as firefighters on TV raised the American flag at ground zero hours after the Twin Towers fell.
GOD BLESS AMERICA! pic.twitter.com/VklXvWggKJ
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) September 11, 2019
Flashing back to the “present,” the officer is seen preparing for violence. He yanks down the visor on his riot helmet and unholsters his baton just before the protesters break through barricades and rush toward him.
The screen then cuts to black, and a slogan materializes in white lettering: “This We’ll Defend.”
Although Giuliani appeared to have removed the branding from the video, it was originally a commercial for Grunt Style, a hyper-patriotic T-shirt company. The ad has been viewed nearly 4 million times on YouTube.
According to the video’s description, Grunt Style planned to run the 30-second commercial during the 2017-2018 Super Bowl but ultimately decided not to do so because, “In the end we just couldn’t take the big money risk.”
However, the company said the video “shows what we stand for”: “We support our military. We support the police. We support everyone’s right to protest. Protest peacefully.”
Twitter reacts to Giuliani’s Sept. 11 video
On Twitter, Giuliani’s video had been viewed more than 720,000 times and counting by Wednesday afternoon. It had 11,500 likes and 4,000 shares.
A number of commenters responded by praising Giuliani for his post-Sept. 11 service.
God bless mayor, you were there
— Julien (@JulienSkye1) September 11, 2019
However, the replies were overwhelmingly negative, with many recalling Giuliani’s failed Senate and presidential campaigns and, more recently, his zany appearances in support of Trump.
Many Twitter users, including Deadspin writer David Roth, deemed Giuliani’s promotion of the Grunt Style video a form of fascistic propagandizing.
Rudy Giuliani sharing an overtly fascist commercial for a Troop Lifestyle clothing brand at 1:53am on the anniversary of September 11 is exactly exactly exactly where the culture is right now. No one else needs to tweet anything today.
— David Roth (@david_j_roth) September 11, 2019
Some accused him of dangerously conflating left-wing activists with terrorists.
I also remember when antifa knocked down the World Trade Center
— Mass for Shut-ins (podcast) (@gin_and_tacos) September 11, 2019
Others suggested Giuliani was mentally unwell. Jesse Singal, a magazine writer and frequent critic of the left, called the video “deranged.”
I'm sorry but this is deranged https://t.co/hgz4SjU4QS
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) September 11, 2019
Grunt Style did not immediately respond to Pluralist’s request for comment. But on Wednesday morning, the company tweeted a meme approvingly quoting Giuliani.
"The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirit, instead we have emerged stronger and more unified." – Rudy Giuliani #gruntstyle #thiswelldefend #prideinself #prideinmilitary #prideincountryhttps://t.co/aERpFrDOdH pic.twitter.com/qn77f4UdwV
— Grunt Style (@Gruntstyle) September 11, 2019
In the YouTube description of its ad, Grunt Style implicitly rejected the notion that it was promoting violence. Rather, the company said, the police officer character was “protecting protestors and protecting their right to assemble.”
“In this commercial you see the story of one man’s journey of service,” the description continued. “He has served his country and has held the line. He is doing so here. First protecting protesters and protecting their right to assemble, and when things turn violent, he and his fellow police officers do not run, they defend the line. Not backing down. Not running. Not afraid. We support all those who stand the line wherever it is. We are Grunt Style and this we’ll defend.”