Once 'America's Mayor,' Giuliani emerges as divisive figure

AP News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2016 2:49 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Rudolph Giuliani, who earned the nickname "America's Mayor" for his leadership in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, has emerged as a far more divisive figure during this tumultuous American summer, advising Donald Trump and scolding activists railing against police violence.

Giuliani has not held public office since 2001, but he has asserted himself on a pair of inflammatory issues that are helping shape this year's White House race.

A former federal prosecutor and a Republican who served eight years leading deeply liberal New York City, Giuliani has long linked himself to law enforcement.

He took up that mantle again after last week's two fatal shootings of African-American men by police and then the killing of five police officers in Dallas. Though many public figures followed up with pleas for unity, Giuliani fiercely criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, saying it encouraged violence against police.

"When you say black lives matter, that's inherently racist," Giuliani said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That's anti-American, and it's racist."

He added: "They sing rap songs about killing police officers, and they talk about killing police officers, and they yell it out at their rallies and the police officers hear it."

Giuliani doubled down the next day, touting the aggressive policing tactics he championed while mayor, ones that drove down crime but also inflamed racial tensions.

"I believe I saved a lot more black lives than Black Lives Matter. I don't see what Black Lives Matter is doing for blacks other than isolating them," Giuliani said during an appearance on Fox News. "All it cares about is the police shooting of blacks. It doesn't care about the 90 percent of blacks that have been killed by other blacks."

His comments drew immediate criticism and were rebuffed by Joe Biden. The vice president acknowledged that while there were some militant elements of the Black Lives Matter movement, he accused Giuliani of using "a very broad statement."

"There's nothing inconsistent with supporting the police and acknowledging the problems that exist in terms of dealing with the communities that, in fact, are feeling put upon," Biden told CNN.

A spokeswoman for Giuliani told The Associated Press that the former mayor was traveling this week and unavailable to comment.

Giuliani embraced Trump's presidential bid early on, and he endorsed Trump in the weeks before the New York primary, which the reality TV star won in a landslide.

In May, Trump suggested that he planned to tap Giuliani to study his proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the country. Trump has since backed away from it, and Giuliani has taken credit for the shift.

Giuliani said in an interview last week with NJ Advance Media that he put together a small group of people to study the idea.

"You can't have a general ban, but you can have very specific, targeted criteria," Giuliani said. "You could certainly say 'We're not going to take any of the Syrian refugees.'"

A Trump aide confirmed that the candidate has spoken to Giuliani about the policy but declined to answer whether ex-mayor was a source of the shift. Politico reported Wednesday that Giuliani is slated to address the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.

Always outspoken, Giuliani's transformation from moderate Republican mayor of an overwhelmingly Democratic city to right-wing hero came in the years after the attacks, as he shifted right on a number of issues — including gun control and public funding of abortions — during his failed run for president in 2008.

His recent stances only place him further out of step with the city he once led, said Jeanne Zaino, political science professor at Iona College.

"He was basically universally beloved after 9/11 but the changes are surprising," Zaino said. "He's trying to stay relevant, but he's become a pretty polarizing figure."