Stung by Politico Report, Giuliani Puts Up His Dukes

In Iowa, Hillary Clinton impressed the editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register; the paper's endorsement could boost her candidacy.
In Iowa, Hillary Clinton impressed the editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register; the paper's endorsement could boost her candidacy. (By Steve Pope -- Associated Press)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 3, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, who made his name prosecuting bad guys, has always taken a two-fisted approach toward what he brands "the liberal media."

That pugilistic style was on display last week when the Politico got under Hizzoner's skin.

In a report posted online at 2:47 p.m. Wednesday, the newspaper said the former New York City mayor had billed tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses to obscure city agencies for repeated visits to the Hamptons when "he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan," who had an apartment there. The issue was picked up in the Republican presidential debate that night.

Giuliani called the piece "totally false," telling CBS's Katie Couric: "This story is five years old. It came out two hours before a debate. It's a typical political hit job with only half the story told, not that second part told -- that every single penny was reimbursed, that all of this was public. . . . But it was a typical -- this particular case -- it was sort of a debate-day dirty trick."

Editor in Chief John Harris says the Giuliani camp has not challenged the facts in reporter Ben Smith's story. "No way this was a hit job," he says. "We took our reporting to them a couple of days in advance. We told them what our reporting had found and asked for explanations. They simply didn't take advantage of that opportunity."

Any suggestion that the story was timed for the debate, Harris says, is "preposterous," adding that no rival campaign was involved.

Smith, a former New York Daily News reporter, had requested the city documents in June under the Freedom of Information Act. Giuliani's spokeswoman had declined to comment, although one aide spoke on a not-for-attribution basis. After the story was published, Giuliani said that he had been under 24-hour police guard because of threats, that he had always followed the same procedure and that agencies such as the Loft Board -- which were utilized for speedier payment -- were reimbursed by the police department.

Maria Comella, a Giuliani spokeswoman, says the Politico story was "neatly packaged in a very salacious and somewhat misleading way. There are inaccuracies in the piece and a mischaracterization of the situation that lends itself to being described as the mayor described it."

Asked to identify the inaccuracies, Comella cited the need for security and the long-standing procedures that were followed. "We say explicitly in the story that the mayor needs 24/7 security," Smith says.

Giuliani routinely uses the Fourth Estate as a foil. In New Hampshire last week, while discussing how he moved 640,000 New Yorkers off the welfare rolls, he said: "I was accused by all of the liberal media of being mean, of being cruel."

In Iowa, while saying he did not know whether waterboarding was torture, Giuliani said he did not believe that U.S. interrogators should use it, based on reports "in the liberal media" -- but he also questioned whether the media's descriptions were accurate. He also said that "the liberal media will immediately think higher taxes" when fiscal policy is discussed. On another occasion, he faulted "the liberal media" for not holding Hillary Rodham Clinton accountable for her criticism of the Iraq war commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

Giuliani honed his political skills during eight years of constant combat with the tabloid-driven New York press. As a White House contender, he is finding the media an equally juicy target, a stance that may well have resonance among Republican primary voters.

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