8 Million Stories In the Naked City, And One Character Keeps Popping Up
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Before deciding to run for president, Rudy Giuliani might have consulted the late William Faulkner, who studiously said, "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." If America's mayor didn't know that before, he certainly knows it now.
They keep coming, don't they? Those hauntings from the past. First, his friend and former police commissioner Bernard Kerik was hit with a 16-count indictment last week on various charges of corruption and mail and tax fraud. Then, this week comes Judith Regan, once a Kerik mistress and former publisher of ReganBooks, claiming in a lawsuit that two executives at her imprint's parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., told her to lie when investigators questioned her about Kerik. The lies, she says, were meant to protect Giuliani's presidential bid.
Not that he's unaccustomed to it, but news of the tawdry once again is nipping at Giuliani's heels. And of course the candidate can do little but swat questions away.
"I don't know anything about it," Giuliani told reporters on Wednesday, when news broke of Regan's suit. "And, it sounds to me like a kind of gossip-column story more than a real story."
Giuliani knows all about that. His colorful life even includes infamously comical episodes when he performed at political roasts dressed as a woman.
"Rudy's led a tabloid life," says New York historian and author Terry Golway. "Let's face it. When your wife has a press conference to address the state of your marriage, that's tabloid material. He's invited that kind of thing." (Said wife, Donna Hanover, found out about her separation from Giuliani when the then-mayor held a news conference of his own.)
"Rudy enjoyed being a public figure," Golway says. "He was a guy who got up in drag. He's certainly one of those politicians who believes his biography is one of the reasons you should vote for him. It's not just his record. It's his story. And that is going to come back and bite you if you have this operatic personal life."
As much as the former mayor has attempted to distance himself from the troubles of Kerik and Regan, the fact remains that they were creatures of his New York, a legacy of the heady days when Giuliani lived large in Gracie Mansion.
This much we know: In 2001, a Lower Manhattan apartment meant to provide a haven for rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero reportedly became Kerik and Regan's love nest. The two had come together while Kerik was writing his memoir, which ReganBooks published.
"The thing about Judith Regan was she was this self-willed dynamic woman who just didn't give a damn," says New York Post columnist (and Murdoch employee) Liz Smith. "Her affair with Bernie Kerik was so public, I don't think she cared. You have to admire her guts."
Regan's $100 million lawsuit leveled against News Corp. and its HarperCollins unit this week alleges that in 2004 a senior News Corp. executive "counseled Regan to lie and withhold information from investigators concerning Kerik."
This happened, the lawsuit claims, because the unnamed executive "believed she [Regan] had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Kerik's Homeland Security nomination and more importantly Giuliani's planned presidential campaign."
We do not know what, if anything, Regan may have known that would have had a bearing on Kerik's fate. Reportedly, she was but one of two Kerik mistresses.
Infamously, Kerik was forced to withdraw his nomination after it was revealed that he had not paid taxes for a nanny who was an undocumented worker. After a series of scandals that came tumbling forth about possible ties to a mob-related company, Kerik was formally charged last week with conspiracy, corruption and tax evasion.
As for Regan, her attempt last year to publish a pseudo-memoir by O.J. Simpson sparked a maelstrom of criticism. Murdoch, owner of News Corp., parent company of HarperCollins (which includes ReganBooks), fired her, reportedly for making an anti-Semitic comment.
"Everyone knew Bernie Kerik was a headline waiting to happen," Golway says. "Everyone knew about the affair with Judith Regan. The one thing you heard the other week listening to the U.S. Attorney [Michael] Garcia talking about Kerik in tones of disapproval, those were the words of Rudy Giuliani from 20 years ago. They're exactly what Rudy would have said about Kerik had he been prosecuting him 20 years ago."
Instead Kerik was an integral part of the world Giuliani ruled over as ringmaster after he swept into the mayor's office in 1993. Kerik flourished in that world. Once Giuliani's personal driver, he went on to lead New York's corrections and police departments. Regan exploded in her own field when, in 1994, Murdoch gave Regan her own publishing imprint. This was shortly before the launch of Fox News, Murdoch's cable news alternative to CNN.
At the center of this, though, was Giuliani. There were the reports of an extended tryst with his press secretary. There was the revelation of his affair with Judith Nathan, his current wife, and the 2000 news conference where he announced his separation from second-wife Hanover. There was the judge's ruling that Giuliani must stop bringing Nathan to Gracie Mansion while it was also occupied by his wife and children. Giuliani bunked, for a time, at the apartment of two gay friends.
But late in 2001, Giuliani transcended the life that was. After his triumphal leadership on Sept. 11, Giuliani posed for a photo that would define him -- and perhaps more importantly, the idea of him -- for years to come. He'd been selected Person of the Year by Time; his photo would grace the magazine's cover.
And there he was -- standing with the city, his city, as the backdrop -- a monument to strength and fortitude, a man transformed. That is the Rudy Giuliani that much of America knows.
"When I talk to even Republican colleagues who run focus groups, you have these little old conservative ladies who say the most important issues are on abortion, on guns, on keeping taxes low," says New York-based political consultant Joe Mercurio. "And when they ask these people who are you going to vote for they say Giuliani. I think a lot of people don't care about Kerik and the marriages and living in a gay friend's house, because they think he's going to run against Hillary" Clinton.
It's the past all over again. Rudy vs. Hillary (maybe), just like his aborted U.S. Senate race of 2000. Time will tell.