WASHINGTON -- Christie Whitman, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was bombarded yesterday with boos, hisses, and a host of accusations at a congressional hearing after insisting it was safe to breathe the air around the ruined World Trade Center in the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks .
The confrontation grew heated at times, with members of the audience shouting in anger, only to be gaveled down by the hearing chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes ground zero.
For three hours Whitman faced repeated charges from Nadler and others that the EPA's public statements after the attacks gave people a false sense of safety.
Whitman stuck to her position that the government warned those working on the toxic debris pile to use respirators, while elsewhere the air was safe for the general public. Nadler says EPA ran a negligent cleanup after the attacks.