Bestselling Bigotry


Tucked away at the end of Rudy Giuliani’s Leadership, which has been at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for 12 straight weeks, is a typically spiteful hit list disguised as four pages of “Acknowledgments.” Dissecting it has become a parlor game for Giuliani insiders and watchers—as much for who’s missing as for who’s thanked.

More important than the gossipy intrigue of the list, however, is the continuation of our own Trent Lott’s race war. Giuliani praises “my commissioners and agency heads” who “served the city with distinction,” thanking 33 of them, but names only one of the 11 blacks he appointed—former housing commissioner Richard Roberts. Giuliani says how “grateful” he is to the 36 key City Hall staffers who regularly participated in the morning cabinet meetings he describes as critical to his government, but includes ex-deputy mayor Rudy Washington as the solitary black. A third list of “others in city government” who “merit mention” does not include a single black.

Finally, he lists 39 people who’ve “enhanced my career in politics” without acknowledging a single black, though Richard Parsons, the head of Time Warner, chaired his mayoral campaign finance committee as well as the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The cumulative lists—which leave blacks as two of the 122 cited in these four categories—is almost as white as Giuliani Partners LLC, his new corporate venture. Not only was there no room in the inn at Partners for blacks—not even for Washington—but Giuliani has yet to help his most loyal black retainer land anywhere else.

The book’s lists reach far back for Giuliani appointees like Lou Carbonetti, who was director of the Community Assistance Unit for a few months until he was forced out by scandal in mid 1994, and Abe Lachman, the budget director who quit after the first year. But the book omits Parsons, Deborah Wright, Margaret Hamburg, Marva Hammonds, Al Curtis, Earl Andrews, and Bruce Siegel, who, during the early years, ran, respectively, the city’s development, housing, health, human resources, youth, tax, and hospital agencies. With Andrews and Curtis serving in other posts until the end of the administration,the list also leaves out Wilbur Chapman at Transportation, Violet Mitchell at Community Development, Deborah Weeks at Business Services, and Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, who was installed at Giuliani’s behest. These four served most of Giuliani’s final years, and Crew, for a long while, was actually a close social friend of the mayor’s.

Speaking of friends, Giuliani also named 53 “terrific friends and supporters,” grouping them sometimes by ethnicity, and managed to list three blacks, starting with Willie Mays, who chaired a fundraiser for him when he was running against David Dinkins but moved to the West Coast years ago. The others are Crown Heights community activist Richard Green and Imam Pasha, a twofer for Giuliani, the only Muslim on the four pages.

Giuliani is somewhat kinder to Latinos, much as his administration was. He recognizes four Latino commissioners—the Housing Authority’s Tino Hernandez, Human Rights’ Marta Varela, Probation’s Raul Russi, and Records’ George Rios, as well as Deputy Mayor Ninfa Segarra and aide Manny Papir. Herman Badillo makes the list of people who aided his political career, bringing the Latino total to seven of 122. But he omits eight other commissioners, including heavy hitters like Ruben Franco, who ran the Housing Authority far longer than Hernandez; Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jose Maldonado; Health and Hospitals president Luis Marcos; Employment Commissioner Antonio Pagan; and Lillian Barrios-Paoli, who headed three different agencies for Giuliani.

Barrios-Paoli, who is now a top director at New York United Way, attributed her own omission to a “philosophical conflict” over anti-poor policies that developed between her and City Hall while she was Human Resources administrator. Clearly, listed commissioners like Rios remained team players in the ex-mayor’s eyes by secretly turning over control of Giuliani’s public records to him in the final days of 2001, though the law required him to retain them as chief city archivist. Likewise, Varela, a hero only in Giuliani’s book, was implicitly blasted in a recent Times story for running the rights agency into the ground, leaving a backlog of unexamined complaints that Bloomberg’s new commissioner has attacked with a zeal unheard of in Varela’s eight years at the helm.

Actually the discredited human rights agency is the only one that comes in for two citations on Giuliani’s Thank-You Card. Sara Vidal, the onetime deputy commissioner under Varela, is the only Latino to make Giuliani’s list of “terrific friends.” Giuliani also recounts in the chapter of the book entitled “Weddings Discretionary, Funerals Mandatory” how he went to the 1989 funeral of Vidal’s mother and how it led to her and her sister becoming “dedicated workers on my mayoral campaign,” a support he was “extremely grateful for.” He does not say that the sister, who was once Dinkins’s personal secretary, supplied him with all kinds of dirt on her former boss, including pilfered love letters from several women, which Dinkins kept in his office—and which Giuliani tried unsuccessfully to turn into a news story. No wonder Vidal got both a job and an acknowledgment.

Of the 248 people acknowledged from every phase of Giuliani’s life other than his family and police detail, only six are black and nine Latino, a commentary on the insularity of a public career in NYC and Washington that spanned nearly three decades. It’s not that he just leaves out minorities—he omits Donna Hanover, though he names first wife Regina Peruggi and the sneaker saleswoman/consigliere Cristyne Lategano, precisely because both kept quiet while Hanover finally went over the edge. He said himself that he would not have been elected mayor but for Hanover, a television professional who taught him much about the medium and did decisive commercials for him in 1993. Nor would he have been elected without the endorsement of Ed Koch, who goes unmentioned in the list of those who “enhanced” his political career because Koch has since pronounced him a “Nasty Man.”

Giuliani omits Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, who quit only to come back under Bloomberg and who was arguably Giuliani’s most successful commissioner, dramatically reducing the cost per ton of garbage collection. Doherty is one of 11 unmentioned white commissioners or deputies out of 72, including Finance’s Fred Cerullo, Homeless’s Joan Malin, Buildings’ Gaston Silva, and Environmental Protection’s Marilyn Gelber. But several of them had known disagreements with City Hall (Silva, for example, had the audacity to say Yankee Stadium was sound when Rudy and one of his listed “terrific friends,” George Steinbrenner, were conspiring to spend a billion in public funds to replace it). Giuliani does list the commissioner he had the biggest brouhaha with—Bill Bratton—but he does his best to downplay Bratton’s role in the body of the book.

White commissioners are still far more likely to be named than blacks or Latinos, and those whites excluded apparently couldn’t pass some loyalty test going on in the mayor’s imagination. They may have smiled at the wrong reporter or winced at an attack on the poor. They may have very quietly differed or, almost as bad, been suspected of differing. They may just not have looked sufficiently dazzled to a “leader” whose book makes loyalty the most “vital virtue.”

In a week when Michael Bloomberg taught us how a mayor should handle racially explosive police killings—in sharp contrast with Giuliani’s practice of denouncing the parents of innocent 16-year-olds shot by cops for allowing their kids to be out after midnight—it’s worth remembering the poison of the Giuliani era. The Lott episode was one of those unusual moments in American politics when a white politician’s views on race temporarily seemed to matter. Rudy Giuliani cannot be America’s hero if he is only White America’s hero.

Research assistance: Cathy Bussewitz, Clementine Wallace, Yi Chen