The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How can it be racism, says Rudy Giuliani. Obama’s mom was white.

Rudy Giuliani at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., last year.

“I do not believe — and I know this is a horrible thing to say — but I do not believe that the president loves America,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday night at a private dinner in New York intended to boost Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a 2016 presidential contender. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

A day after Politico reported that statement, Democrats criticized Giuliani for questioning the president’s patriotism. Some said Giuliani’s rhetoric was racist, that it implied the president’s background made him different from other Americans. So on Thursday, the former mayor spoke to national media to explain his remarks.

To Fox News: “First of all, I’m not questioning his patriotism. He’s a patriot, I’m sure. What I’m saying is, in his rhetoric I very rarely hear the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things that I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America. … I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents. And when it’s not in the context of an overwhelming number of statements about the exceptionalism of America, it sounds like he’s more of a critic than he is a supporter.”

To Bloomberg Politics: “What I mean is he doesn’t express it. I shouldn’t say that the president does or does not love anything. I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist, and he doesn’t have one and he doesn’t need one.”

To the New York Times: “I’m happy for him to give a speech where he talks about what’s good about America and doesn’t include all the criticism. … Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

To CNN“There’s a real attempt to make it a racial criticism. It has nothing to do with race … he was brought up, by the way, by a white mother and white grandparents.”

[Report: Rudy Giuliani tells private dinner ‘I do not believe that the president loves America’]

By the end of the day, his voice rasping, he was grilled by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who took him to task for his “incendiary” comment about Obama not loving America and asked if he wanted to apologize.

“Not at all,” Giuliani said. “I want to repeat it.”

So what about the candidate unwittingly a bystander in the drama? Though Walker first declined to comment, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Giuliani could “speak for himself,” he wanted it known: Walker loves America.

“I’m not going to comment on whether — what the president thinks or not,” he said in the interview. “I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent, everywhere in between, who love this country.”

[How Rudy Giuliani marginalized himself]