Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been on a tear since Sunday, turning himself into a B storyline as he offers what you might call unvarnished takes on race and crime in America amid the tension in Ferguson, Mo. It started with a “Meet The Press” panel, when he told a black panelist that white police officers wouldn’t be in black communities if “you weren’t killing each other.”
And he hasn’t let up while a grand jury has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s shooting and heated protests have followed.
Giuliani isn’t a stranger to racially charged rhetoric, dating back to his time as mayor, but these recent comments were striking even to one of Giuliani’s biographers who was quite familiar with the former mayor’s past rhetoric on these issues.
“Some of this stuff has struck me as a little over-the-top even for him,” Andrew Kirtzman, a former journalist and now a vice president at Global Strategy Group, who wrote a 2001 book about Giuliani, said in a phone interview. “But this is the man who when asked what he had done for the black community in New York, back in the 90s, he said, ‘Well, they’re still alive to begin with.'”
“So this is not completely out of character for him, and it’s a theme he relishes,” Kirtzman said. “But there does seem to be kind of a lack of restraint, even on the Giuliani scale, for some of the things he’s been saying.”
Giuliani, from his time as a federal prosecutor to his 1993 election as mayor and subsequent pursuit of a tough policing agenda that attracted criticism on racial grounds, has always walked the edge when discussing race, as the New York Times detailed in 2007. But, as Kirtzman explained, his recent comments on Ferguson are still jarring.
First, Giuliani said Sunday that black-on-black crime was “the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community.
“White police officers won’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70 percent of the time,” he said to a fellow “Meet the Press” guest, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, who is black.
He didn’t back down from that position either, rather diving even fuller into the ills of black-on-black crime the next day.
“The danger to a black child in America is not a white police officer. That’s going to happen less than one percent of the time,” Giuliani said Monday on Fox News. “The danger to a black child — if it was my child — the danger is another black.”
He then referenced the reduction in crime during his time as mayor.
“I used to look at our crime reduction, and the reason we reduced homicide by 65 percent is because we reduced it in the black community,” he said. “Because there is virtually no homicide in the white community.”
Then after the news of no indictment for Wilson and resulting protests that turned violent, Giuliani went on CNN on Tuesday to talk about “racial arsonists” and the need for the black community to be “trained.”
“When the president was talking last night about training the police, of course, the police should be trained,” he said. “He also should have spent 15 minutes on training the [black] community to stop killing each other. In numbers that are incredible — incredible — 93 percent of blacks are shot by other blacks. They are killing each other. And the racial arsonists, who enjoyed last night, this was their day of glory.”
So there it is.
Kirtzman said it was no accident that Giuliani had veered into such territory and returned to it repeatedly in his various press appearances this week.
“If you look how many interviews he’s done since then to talk about this again, he’s into it,” he said. “He was never cautious about inflaming situations with his rhetoric, that was always the downside of his candor.”
There might also be a personal element, too, Kirtzman said. Rev. Al Sharpton has been one of the most vocal civil rights leaders talking about Ferguson and he has appeared alongside the Brown family more than once. He and Giuliani, of course, were bitter rivals during the latter’s mayorship, with the mayor trying to box Sharpton out of the city’s power circle and Sharpton retaliating by leading anti-Giuliani protests.
Those past battles came to mind when Giuliani started talking about Ferguson so inflammatorily, Kirtzman said.
“Part of this is just his visceral revulsion at Al Sharpton. They have a very long history and this to me kind of has an element of an old battle playing out on the national stage,” he said. “All these years later, it’s really Sharpton’s star that has ascended. He’s more powerful than ever.”
“When I listened to Giuliani’s comments,” Kirtzman said, “it all resonates back to the old battles from 1993 to 2000.”