Rudy Giuliani's Time As New York Mayor NPR's Michel Martin speaks with journalist Bob Hennelly, who has spent years covering New York politics, about former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry.
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Rudy Giuliani's Time As New York Mayor

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Rudy Giuliani's Time As New York Mayor

Rudy Giuliani's Time As New York Mayor

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the central figures in the House impeachment inquiry is Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and longtime friend of Donald Trump's. He describes himself as President Trump's personal attorney, making frequent and often combative media appearances on Trump's behalf. In that now-famous phone call with Ukraine's president, President Trump asked his counterpart to work with Giuliani in what critics say was an attempt to dig up dirt on a political rival. Giuliani's involvement has confounded many who remember him as America's mayor, the calm, unifying figure who led New York City out of the chaos that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: It was Rudy Giuliani that really was America's mayor. To see that guy and see him now...

MEGHAN MCCAIN: I am very nostalgic for the Giuliani of days past.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: I hate to see his legacy defiled...

MARTIN: But other New Yorkers remember a different Rudy Giuliani - an abrasive politician who put his own image above all else, who cut corners and inflamed racial tensions in the city. Bob Hennelly is a reporter for The Chief-Leader. That's a paper that closely covers New York City's government. He's been reporting on New York politics for more than three decades. He's with us now from his home office in New Jersey.

Bob Hennelly, thanks so much for joining us.

BOB HENNELLY: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: You were a reporter at The Village Voice during the years that Giuliani was the New York mayor. What do you remember most?

HENNELLY: I remember someone who was the originator of the kind of Donald Trump race-based attack politics. I remember very clearly Giuliani using his law-and-order image to foment what some people call - historians, I think, are going to call a police riot - taking on Dave Dinkins, challenging his credibility and racism and race-baiting were a fundamental part of the way that he ruled the city. One of the things that happened was the use of stop and frisk, which became an issue that people focused on nationally. He really was the originator of it.

MARTIN: Did Rudy Giuliani have a relationship with Donald Trump back then? What was that relationship?

HENNELLY: Well...

MARTIN: Were they close?

HENNELLY: I think that they were tabloid creatures - manipulating the media in a way that they actually became creatures of it.

MARTIN: And so tell me how you think that plays into what's happening now.

HENNELLY: Well, I think that what's happened now is, as we know, narrative is so important in politics. So the way that Giuliani got to be known and entered the national stage was really in that moment surrounding Sept. 11. And anyone who actually followed the tick-tock of what was happening in the city knows that actually, Rudy Giuliani made the situation much worse in the way that he responded and in the way that he created a situation where something as basic as fire radios - the firefighters did not have what was required. And it was the fault of his administration through a totally illegal and improper bidding process.

As a matter of fact, the International Association of Firefighters contends that Giuliani's improper handling of the fire radios resulted in additional deaths of 121 firefighters who went up in the north tower and never heard the command to leave even though it had been given twice. You know, this is a parallel narrative that exists if you're familiar with the city of New York in an intimate way, as I've been fortunate to be, but eludes the national press because they don't get into the details.

MARTIN: And so that's why I guess a lot of people - well, some are puzzled, as you said. You know, there are two wildly different views of Rudy Giuliani. I mean, some people see him as, well, he was the former prosecutor. He's the law-and-order guy. How would he be involved in something that other people see as either clearly cutting corners or even - or, you know, kind of a blatant misuse of presidential authority - or, you know, at minimum cutting corners? And some people just find that hard to square. I take it you don't.

HENNELLY: Well, narcissism manifests itself - this is like an occupational hazard. There's a point at which you begin to believe that you are the embodiment of these ideals. And so that whatever you do that's in your interest, it doesn't matter - the other ethical constricts. It's about advancing you, who've now come to personify all that's right. And I think that that's what we see here. And this idea of boundaries not applying - this is the consequence. I mean, I saw it happen with Donald Trump.

I mean, if you look at the way that the real estate industry and Donald Trump in particular were permitted to behave in New York City, they did whatever they wanted to do, and they continued to do it. And so the inability to hold them accountable when they were trying out locally - well, now they've gone national.

MARTIN: Bob Hennelly is a reporter for The Chief-Leader. He's covered law enforcement and city hall for more than three decades for various outlets including The Village Voice and New York Public Radio, and he's a weekly contributor to Salon.

Bob Hennelly, thanks so much for talking with us.

HENNELLY: It was my pleasure.

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