NEW YORK CITY: It was another day on the stump for Rudy Giuliani, as he sparred last week with a CNN host for a half-hour over what Giuliani argued was the news media’s distortion of Donald Trump’s words.
The former New York City mayor did his best to clarify the GOP presidential nominee’s claim that President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State.
“It is true in the sense that before Obama, ISIS was an almost unknown, small, little organization,” Giuliani argued.
In regular TV news appearances and campaign speeches in recent weeks — including fiery remarks at last month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland and two rallies last week in North Carolina — Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor who was mayor at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has become one of Trump’s most vociferous and visible surrogates.
“He’s a bulldog, he’s tenacious,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a fellow Trump supporter who has known Giuliani for nearly 50 years.
Giuliani “has an extremely logical mind and ample legal training — Donald Trump needs that,” King said. “It’s a tough position defending what Trump said, and Rudy’s able to do it.”
Another Trump surrogate, New York City Council Member Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), said Giuliani, 72, effectively wields his law-and-order experience in attacks against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The FBI investigated Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. While FBI director James B. Comey recommended no criminal charges against Clinton for her handling of classified information, he said Clinton had been “extremely careless” in using a private email address and server.
“He is the antithesis of her weaknesses — the sharpest dagger to poke her with on potential criminal activity,” Borelli said of Giuliani.
Bill Cunningham, who served as communications director for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said Giuliani revs up and appeals directly to Trump’s base, but is “not being used as a messenger to reach out to people who are undecided.”
Bloomberg, who took office as a Republican but left as an independent, has endorsed Clinton and called on moderates and swing voters to back her.
George Arzt, press secretary to the late Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, recalled that Giuliani voted for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972 — “going from the extremely left to the extreme right in the political spectrum.”
Arzt said Giuliani, who made a failed bid for the presidency in 2008, may be popular among Trump backers, but is increasingly polarizing in New York City, a liberal stronghold.
“His statements have been extraordinarily controversial, especially on crime in the black community,” Arzt said. “Trump is an anathema to New York values … and Giuliani’s only reinforcing in his own statements some of the craziness in Trump.”
Still, Giuliani remains a formidable debater. As he argued with Giuliani on CNN last Thursday, host Chris Cuomo remarked, “It shouldn’t be a legal argument between us, you’re going to win every time.”