The Slatest

As Backlash Builds, Giuliani Cites Obama’s White Relatives as Evidence of Non-Racism

Giuliani in June 2014.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

On Wednesday, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani asserted that President Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up.” Said Giuliani: “I do not believe that the president loves America.” It was a smear reminiscent of the claims that Obama is lying about being born in the United States and lying about being a Christian. Since Obama was born here, is a Christian, and in fact talks constantly about America’s greatness in his speeches and press conferences, some have suggested that critiques like Giuliani’s are in fact allusions to Obama’s blackness, a method of subtly (or “subtly”) implying that black people aren’t real Americans. Speaking to a New York Times reporter Thursday, Giuliani argued that his comments in fact had nothing to do with race because Obama had a white mother and white grandparents, though in the three sentences of his defense he alluded to Obama’s non-white parent as well:

“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,” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

Obama’s father was Kenyan, and critics of the president’s patriotism such as Newt Gingrich have said Obama’s “anti-colonial” worldview is a “Kenyan” one.

In the New York Daily News, meanwhile, longtime Giuliani gadfly Wayne Barrett runs down the ex-mayor’s history of associations with individuals who definitely weren’t helping defend American greatness—like Bernard Kerik, who Giuliani recommended to run the Homeland Security department despite Kerik’s extensive record of stealing public resources (like an apartment rented for 9/11 responders) for his personal benefit, and the government of Qatar, for whom Giuliani has performed consulting work and which helped protect 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He also notes that Giuliani’s father—who presumably was one of the people who “brought [him] up” to love America—was a convicted violent felon who didn’t serve during WWII:

Harold Giuliani…did time in Sing Sing for holding up a Harlem milkman and was the bat-wielding enforcer for the loan-sharking operation run out of a Brooklyn bar owned by Rudy’s uncle.

Though Rudy cited Harold throughout his public life as his model (without revealing any of his history), he and five Rudy uncles found ways to avoid service in World War II. Harold, whose robbery conviction was in the name of an alias, made sure the draft board knew he was a felon. On the other hand, Obama’s grandfather and uncle served. His uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, which apparently affected him so deeply he stayed in the family attic for six months when he returned home.

Giuliani told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that he would not apologize for his comments, adding: “The reality is, all I can see from this president, all I have heard from is he apologizes for America, he criticizes America.” He continued to frame his remarks in the context of the controversy over Obama’s decision not to describe ISIS or the French terror attacks in religious terms. Said Giuliani: “He sees Christians slaughtered and doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference, although he holds a press conference for the situation in Ferguson,” he said. “He sees Jews being killed for anti-Semitic reasons, doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference.”