By Ellen Brait, Malena Carollo, and Tess Owen
Is Rudy Giuliani losing his touch? Most New Yorkers we asked think so, though some continue to support their former mayor despite his recent dive into controversy.
Giuliani was once called “America’s Mayor” for his performance after the 9/11 attacks. He went on to be a candidate in the 2008 presidential race, but after finishing third in the Florida primary, he withdrew and endorsed John McCain.
He has most recently been in the media for his verbal attack of President Barack Obama in an unusual way: by questioning Obama’s “love” for his country.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during a fundraising dinner on Feb 19 for Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a potential presidential candidate.
We asked a few New Yorker and their neighbors what they thought of their former mayor’s assertions, and got an earful.
“Giuliani’s statements are preposterous,” said Seeta Somagani, a software engineer who works in New York but lives in New Jersey. “Obama is the president. How can you say he doesn’t love his country after he’s done everything he has done to get where he is today?”
Some New Yorkers, like Ana Maria Allessi, who works in digital innovation for Harper Collins, wonder what prompted Giuliani’s sudden outspokenness.
“I think this is just a power grab for Giuliani,” she said. “Where has he been all of this time? Obama is the chief executive of this country, and just running for that position means that you care. I think that this country is strong enough, should be strong enough, to take criticism.”
Similarly, Meg O’Connor, 22, said, Giuliani is on shaky political ground.
“His entire vitality now seems to come from being paid for public speeches, appearances or endorsements, namely for people and organizations on the far right,” she said. “So of course Giuliani is just going to spew whatever vitriolic nonsense he feels like if it’ll get him more attention and support from the people he wants that from.”
Giuliani walked his statement a few steps back in an opinion piece he wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday. “I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart,” he wrote. While he said he didn’t intend to question Obama’s patriotism, he stood by some of his earlier statements. “My intended focus really was the effect [Obama’s] words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance,” he wrote. The headline for the piece was “Rudy Giuliani: My Bluntness Overshadowed My Message.”
That’s not to say Giuliani did not have his share of supporters.
“I agree with Giuliani’s statements,” said Greg Holst, a financial worker who has lived here since 2001. “Obama has been very quick to criticize the U.S. in front of the whole world. It is incredibly disrespectful.”
Kaila Mullady, a beat boxer in Manhattan, still respects Giuliani politically, attributing the statement to politics as usual.
“It doesn’t make me lose respect for him,” she said. “He’s just playing the game, unfortunately. That’s how you have to play the game.”