In reports on the possible indictment of former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on charges relating to a company suspected of having ties to organized crime, Newsday, MSNBC's Hardball, and Fox News' Special Report all uncritically aired statements by Rudy Giuliani suggesting he had been unaware of Kerik's relationship with Interstate Industrial Corp. However, in April 2006, Giuliani reportedly “told a grand jury that the former city commissioner of investigation remembered briefing him on some aspects of Mr. Kerik's relationship to the company in question.”
In an October 12 article on the possible indictment of former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik on charges relating to Interstate Industrial Corp., a company suspected of having ties to organized crime, Newsday uncritically reported the statement by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) that “I take the responsibility that we should have known about them,” suggesting that he had not been aware of Kerik's relationship with the company. Similarly, MSNBC's Hardball and Fox News' Special Report uncritically aired Giuliani's quote, “I've already said I should have checked his background more carefully.” The New York Daily News, which disclosed the possible Kerik indictment in an October 12 article, reported that federal prosecutors may soon indict Kerik on charges that “will likely include allegations of bribery, tax fraud and obstruction of justice.” In contrast with news outlets that uncritically reported Giuliani's statements claiming or suggesting a lack of knowledge about Kerik's problems, in an October 13 article, The New York Times reported, “It remains unclear how much Mr. Giuliani knew about the problems of Mr. Kerik before making him police commissioner,” later stating, “Testifying under oath in April 2006, Mr. Giuliani told a grand jury that the former city commissioner of investigation remembered briefing him on some aspects of Mr. Kerik's relationship to the company in question before he named Mr. Kerik police commissioner.”
The Times first reported on Giuliani's 2006 testimony regarding Kerik in a March 30 article, headlined “Giuliani Testified He Was Briefed on Kerik in '00” :
Rudolph W. Giuliani told a grand jury that his former chief investigator remembered having briefed him on some aspects of Bernard B. Kerik's relationship with a company suspected of ties to organized crime before Mr. Kerik's appointment as New York City police commissioner, according to court records.
Mr. Giuliani, testifying last year under oath before a Bronx grand jury investigating Mr. Kerik, said he had no memory of the briefing, but he did not dispute that it had taken place, according to a transcript of his testimony.
Mr. Giuliani's testimony amounts to a significantly new version of what information was probably before him in the summer of 2000 as he was debating Mr. Kerik's appointment as the city's top law enforcement officer. Mr. Giuliani had previously said that he had never been told of Mr. Kerik's entanglement with the company before promoting him to the police job or later supporting his failed bid to be the nation's homeland security secretary.
Mr. Kerik pleaded guilty last summer to improperly allowing the company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, or its subsidiaries, to do $165,000 worth of free renovations on his Bronx apartment in late 1999 and 2000. The company has denied paying for the work, and has disputed any association with organized crime. But the two brothers who run it have been indicted in the Bronx on charges they lied under oath about their dealings with Mr. Kerik.
There is no evidence that Mr. Giuliani knew about the apartment renovation before promoting Mr. Kerik to police commissioner.
The next day, the Times quoted Giuliani saying of Kerik: “I think I should have done a better job of investigating him, vetting him, however you want to describe that. ... It's my responsibility, and I've learned from it.”
In the October 13 article, the Times again noted Giuliani's earlier testimony that he does not dispute having been briefed on some aspects of Kerik's relationship with Interstate Industrial:
After praising Mr. Kerik's performance as commissioner, Mr. Giuliani said: “On the other side of this, there were these problems. We should have known about them. We should have dealt with them. We didn't. It's my mistake.”
It remains unclear how much Mr. Giuliani knew about the problems of Mr. Kerik before making him police commissioner. Testifying under oath in April 2006, Mr. Giuliani told a grand jury that the former city commissioner of investigation remembered briefing him on some aspects of Mr. Kerik's relationship to the company in question before he named Mr. Kerik police commissioner.
Mr. Giuliani testified that he had no memory of the briefing, but did not dispute that it had taken place.
However, unlike the Times article, Newsday, Hardball host Chris Matthews, and Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron all quoted Giuliani's October 12 statement regarding Kerik without noting reports of his 2006 testimony.
From the October 12 Newsday article:
Giuliani argues that overall, the hundreds of people he appointed produced more successes than failures. And he hopes to convince voters that he'd do an even better job of picking people based on his mistakes with Kerik.
As for Kerik's problems, Giuliani said, “I take the responsibility that we should have known about them.”
From the October 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Speaking of Rudy, the New York Daily News reports today that federal prosecutors are expected to file charges next month against former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. The briefly nominated candidate for Homeland Security chief, according to the newspaper, says the charges will likely include allegations of bribery, tax fraud, and obstruction of justice.
Kerik's lawyer told WNBC in New York that prosecutors told him no charging decisions have been made yet.
Here's the former New York mayor's reaction -- quote -- “I've already said I should have checked his background more carefully. I didn't. I've learned a lesson from it. I'm going to check more carefully in the future” -- close quote.
From the October 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BRET BAIER (guest host): So, Carl, what's up with the Republicans today? What's new?
CARL CAMERON (chief political correspondent): Well, they're certainly enjoying watching the Democrats beat each other up, but for Rudy Giuliani, the Republican front-runner, it's been a very busy week. And today, the Giuliani campaign woke up to a headline in the New York Daily News suggesting that Mr. Giuliani's former police commissioner, when he was mayor of New York, is facing the possibility of a federal indictment for corruption allegations.
Mr. Kerik has caused some level of embarrassment for Rudy Giuliani over the years and Giuliani has apologized for having put him in that position in the past. Here's a sampling of Giuliani today on the subject.
GIULIANI [video clip]: I've already said that I made a mistake, that I should have checked his background more carefully. I didn't. I've learned a lesson from it. I'm going to check more carefully in the future.
CAMERON: Now, the New York Daily News offered up an article that suggested that Kerik could be facing yet another indictment, but it was a largely unsubstantiated and no direct sourcing in it. It is an unconfirmed report. However, this is clearly a story that's going to come back again and again for Rudy Giuliani.