"We were beating him at the knees, trying to weaken him," Sharpton reflects. Then last May, in the wake of the Diallo shooting, the torture of Louima, and other controversial cases, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched a probe into the NYPD. At a hearing in Manhattan, Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir defended the department. But Sharpton and others described the NYPD as out of control.
In March, an unarmed black youth named Malcolm Ferguson was killed during an undercover drug raid four blocks from where Diallo had been gunned down. That same month, public support waned for Giuliani following the shooting of Dorismond, also unarmed, in front of a Manhattan bar. Then Giuliani released Dorismond's juvenile record and was less than sympathetic in comments about his death. In each case, Giuliani vociferously defended the police, and in some instances he tried to shift the blame to the victims.
Giuliani's viability as a Senate candidate worried Republican leaders following his April 27 disclosure that he had prostate cancer. His undeclared candidacy took another hit the week before last with his announcement of plans for a legal separation from his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover, at a news conference that apparently was news to his wife. Hanover retorted with her own bombshell, publicly accusing Giuliani of having had an affair with a former staffer. The mayor denied that, but acknowledged a relationship with a third woman, Judith Nathan. "He showed the same sensitivity to his wife that he showed to Patrick Dorismond's family," Sharpton says. "His own insensitivity has come back to haunt him."
Blacks, Sharpton adds, are prepared to support Mrs. Clinton overwhelmingly, but such support in the face of perceived insensitivity by her can be easily wiped out by a tide of resentment similar to that which engulfed Giuliani. Mrs. Clinton, he reiterates, must call for federal intervention in policing in New York City. "Giuliani remaining as mayor for another 18 months can hurt African Americans," he declares. "Not wanting to guarantee federal protection of our community from the NYPD certainly would dim the enthusiasm of all of us to get out and campaign for her."