Why Hosting Rudy Giuliani To Talk About Race Is A Bad Idea

Media outlets have been hosting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to discuss race as it relates to crime and policing. But Giuliani, who stoked “racial divisions” during his time in office, has used these outlets to push “false” and “misleading” crime statistics.

Giuliani Cites “Misleading” And “False” Statistics About Race And Crime

Giuliani Repeatedly Asserted That “93 Percent Of Blacks In America Are Killed By Other Blacks.” During a November appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Giuliani repeatedly touted the statistic that “93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks.” Giuliani also said, “White police officers won't be there [in black areas] if you weren't killing each other 70% of the time.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/23/14]

Wash. Post's Fact Checker Calls Out Giuliani's “Misleading” Statistic. On The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog, Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote that Giuliani's talking point was “misleading” and “lacks significant context”:

Giuliani's statistic is rooted in Department of Justice studies. But it lacks significant context -- especially because race relations and police treatment of minorities are complex and emotionally-charged topics. We also found it difficult to support Giuliani's personal estimation of the rarity of deadly force by white police officers on black victims, but were limited by the unreliable data on homicides by police.

Ultimately, it is misleading for Giuliani to simplify this topic to the 93 percent statistic and then omit the corresponding statistic for intraracial white murders. [Fact Checker, The Washington Post11/25/14]

Giuliani On Fox: The Conviction Rate For White And Black People Who Commit Murder Is “Approximately The Same.” During an appearance on Fox & Friends to discuss the outcry over his Meet The Press comments, Giuliani claimed “only about 3 percent of whites kill blacks. They go to jail at approximately the same percentage as blacks go to jail. The conviction rate is almost exactly the same. The difference is, it's a very rare exception when a white kills a black.” [Fox & Friends, Fox News, 11/24/14, via PolitiFact.com]

PunditFact: Giuliani's Race Murder Claim Completely Lacks Evidence. PunditFact rated Giuliani's claim about conviction rates by race “false”:

Giuliani said, “the conviction rate is almost exactly the same” for whites and blacks who commit murder.

We couldn't find any statistical evidence to support Giuliani's claim, and experts said they weren't aware of any, either. We found some related data, but that data only serves to highlight some of the racial disproportion in the justice system.

And when you take a step back, Giuliani's comment -- even if supported by statistical evidence -- would amount to cherry-picking data to shed the most benign light on racial disparities of the American justice system. Jurisprudence in general does not reflect this pattern.

Without statistical data to back up his claim, we rate it False.

Update, Nov. 26, 2014, 2:00 p.m.: Soon after we published this item, the Bureau of Justice Statistics officially confirmed to PolitiFact that they do not have nationally representative data on conviction rates by race. [PolitiFact.com, 11/26/14]

Giuliani Has Used Recent Media Appearances To Make Other Incendiary Comments About Race

Giuliani Given Major Media Exposure Following Meet The Press Comments. After his November 23 Meet the Press appearance, cable news programs have repeatedly hosted Giuliani to discuss race and crime, including Fox News' Fox & Friends (11/24/14); Fox News' Hannity (11/24/14); Fox News' The Kelly File (11/25/14); CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper (11/25/14); CNN's New Day (11/25/14); Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto (11/26/14); Fox News' Fox News Sunday (11/30/14); and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor (12/4/14).

Giuliani Suggests “More Responsibility Is On The Black Community” To Reduce Tensions With Police. During a November 30 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Giuliani was asked by host Chris Wallace whether “blacks have a legitimate complaint about racial discrimination by police in their communities.” Giuliani conceded that there is “more unfair intereaction between police officers, white and black, in the black community than in the white community,” adding, “some of that responsibility is on the police department.” He continued, claiming that “just as much if not more responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community”:

WALLACE: Mayor, let me move you on to the bigger issue, though. Because I want you to take a look at a poll that we found. 70 percent of blacks say people in their community are treated less fairly than whites in dealing with the police. Only 37 percent of whites make the same complaint. Question, do you think that blacks have a legitimate complaint about racial discrimination by police in their communities? 

GIULIANI: Yes, I do. I do believe that there is more intereaction and more unfair intereaction between police officers, white and black, in the black community than in the white community. And I think some of that responsibility is on the police department. And on police departments to train their police officers better and to make their police departments much more diversified. But I think just as much if not more responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community. It's because blacks commit murder eight times more per capita than any other group in our society. And when I assigned police officers with Commissioner Bratton and Commissioner Safir, we did it based on statistics. We didn't do it based on race. If there were a lot of murders in a community, we put a lot of police officers there. If I had put all of my police officers on Park Avenue and none in Harlem, thousands and thousands more blacks would have been killed during the 8 years that I was mayor. [Fox News Sunday, Fox News, 11/30/14]

Giuliani: “I Probably Saved More Black Lives ... Than Any Mayor In The History Of This City.” During his Fox & Friends appearance, Giuliani claimed he had “probably saved more black lives as mayor of New York City than any mayor in the history of this city.” [Fox & Friends, Fox News, 11/24/14

“Many African-Americans Recall Giuliani As A Divider” On Race As Mayor

Biographer Jack Newfield: “Giuliani Was An Awful Mayor When It Came To Racial Equality And Harmony.” The late Jack Newfield, a veteran New York reporter who penned a biography of Giuliani, wrote of his record on race:  

Giuliani performed well on 9/11 and I honor him for his serene leadership on that day, but I can't forget what he did on all his other days.

First, Giuliani was an awful mayor when it came to racial equality and harmony. He picked a permanent fight with one part of the city -- the black community. During his first month in office, Giuliani discarded the affirmative action programs of his predecessor. He shunned the city's elected black officials and boasted about his policy of ostracism.

Giuliani allowed his parks commissioner, Henry Stern, to discriminate against blacks (and Latinos) in hiring and promotions. In June 2002, the Justice Department of Bush and Ashcroft sued Stern and the city for racial discrimination, accusing Stern of running an affirmative action program for whites from elite colleges.

Giuliani's police department also practiced racial profiling -- a policy that was ended when Ray Kelly became the police commissioner. [Newsday, 1/28/03, via Nexis] 

The Intercept: “Giuliani Divided The City With His Racial Politics.” Intercept reporter Andrew Jerell Jones wrote of Giuliani:

Growing up in New York City during Giuliani's two terms as mayor, I saw first hand how Giuliani divided the city with his racial politics. He used the infamous Crown Heights riots, the heated three day event that saw blacks and orthodox Jews fight each other in the Crown Heights part of Brooklyn, to help defeat David Dinkins for mayor in 1993.

During his first term as mayor, Giuliani instituted policies guided by the controversial "Broken Windows" theory, which has been used to guide law enforcement officials to focus on stopping petty crime like littering or spraying graffiti. But Broken Windows, which has returned to New York along with its creator, Giuliani and now Mayor Bill De Blasio's police commissioner Bill Bratton, has been widely and correctly criticized as a pretext for racially discriminatory policing.

Giuliani also emphatically backed the New York Police Department's handling of the notorious assault or killings on the unarmed black trio of Abner LouimaAmadou Diallo, and Patrick Dorismond. And he showed no hesitation in implementing the harsh conservative policies Republicans like him prefer that severely harmed the poor and working class, groups that are disproportionally black, during his time as mayor. Attacking union rights, welfare for the poor and going after social service programs were all apart of Giuliani's legacy as mayor. [The Intercept, FirstLook.org, 12/3/14]

Philadelphia Inquirer: Giuliani “Let Racial Divisions, Especially With Regard To Cases Of Police Brutality, Widen.” In declining to endorse Giuliani for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: “Giuliani's role in New York on 9/11 was admirable, but he hasn't made a compelling case for becoming commander in chief. While he did clean up the city, he also let racial divisions, especially with regard to cases of police brutality, widen. He also gained a reputation for vindictiveness, targeting political enemies big and small. Those tendencies would be disastrous on the national stage.” [The Philadelphia Inquirer1/27/08]

Historian Jason Sokol: Giuliani “Did Play The Race Card” In Crown Heights Case. Jason Sokol, an author and assistant professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, said that Giuliani “play[ed] the race card” with the Crown Heights riots and “certainly benefited from that kind of racial backlash.”

SOKOL: You know, Dinkins's tenure is still very controversial. Some people think he did nothing and contributed to the erosion of public life in New York and the increase in crime. But the crime rates actually started to drop through Dinkins's tenure. But the problem was that the Crown Heights riots exploded in the early '90s, which was where an African-American child was killed by the motorcade of a famous Orthodox Jewish leader. And then in response, an Orthodox Jewish man was then murdered. And in Crown Heights, you had several days of violence, and many people in the city thought that Dinkins didn't do nearly enough to stop that violence. And then Rudy Giuliani was able to capitalize. And Giuliani had first run against Dinkins in '89, and Giuliani lost. And in those four years, Giuliani really surrounded himself with a lot of different policy wonks and so forth. And he offered -- was able to offer something -- a vision much different than Dinkins's. And that vision carried the day in '93.

However, he also did play the race card. There was a famous rally of police officers down in lower Manhattan. And Giuliani spoke at that rally of white police officers who were disgruntled with some of Dinkins's policies. And there was even a sign held up that said, dump the washroom attendant. So Giuliani certainly benefited from that kind of racial backlash in '93. [National Public Radio, Fresh Air, 12/1/14]

McClatchy: “Many African-Americans Recall Giuliani As A Divider” On Race. McClatchy reported of Giuliani's mayoral legacy in 2007:

But many African-Americans recall Giuliani as a divider who exacerbated tensions by refusing to meet with African-American leaders -- even elected ones -- and stood solidly behind the city's police amid a series of violent, racially tinged incidents.

''There was a climate that police officers were willy-nilly violating civil rights with racial profiling and stop-and-search,'' said Michael Myers, the head of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. 'It was a climate, a culture, the mayor could have changed, but he didn't. He has a `however' record, very mixed, very disturbing from a standpoint of civil liberties and race.'' [McClatchy,11/4/07]

McClatchy: Task Force On Police-Community Relations Member “Said That Giuliani Appeared Uninterested” In Concerns About Police Misconduct. McClatchy reported of Giuliani's legacy as mayor with regard to policing in the minority community:

In each case, Giuliani urged the public not to judge the police until the facts were known. In Dorismond's case, the mayor sought to sway public opinion by authorizing the release of the victim's sealed juvenile record and quipping that Dorismond wasn't an “altar boy.”

Dorismond had been an altar boy and had attended the same Roman Catholic high school that Giuliani attended.

The Diallo shooting spurred massive protests outside New York's One Police Plaza. More than 1,000 people, including clergy, elected officials, former police officers and celebrities, lined up daily to get arrested in protest against what they believed was excessive racial-profiling by the NYPD.

Flake tried to convey his congregation's concerns about police behavior directly to Giuliani. The two met at a diner in Queens. Flake recounted his own story of being pulled over at night for no apparent reason a year earlier by a police officer who hurled the “N-word” at him.

Flake said that Giuliani appeared unmoved by his story or his pleas for the mayor to make some overture to the African-American community in the wake of the Louima shooting.

In author Andrew Kirtzman's book “Rudy Giuliani: Emperor of the City,” Flake reminded the mayor that prominent Harlem minister Calvin Butts accused him of being racist.

“I won't join Calvin and call you racist,” Flake told Giuliani, according to Kirtzman's book, “because I just think you're mean to everybody. ... You've got a mean streak in you.”

In response to the [Abner] Louima incident, Giuliani established a 28-member Task Force on Police-Community Relations.

[New York Civil Rights Coalition head Michael] Myers, a member, said that Giuliani appeared uninterested in the group. The mayor failed to show up at a Sept. 30, 1997, meeting that had been scheduled so he could hear from youths who claimed they'd been abused or disrespected by police officers.

Mayor Giuliani attended a baseball playoff game at Yankee Stadium instead. [McClatchy, 11/4/07]

New York Magazine's Chris Smith: Giuliani's 2009 “Race-baiting All Too Familiar.” During a 2009 speech, Giuliani appeared to reference the Crown Heights riots in arguing that New Yorkers should support Michael Bloomberg for mayor. Smith wrote Giuliani had previously stoked “racial divisions over the Crown Heights riots to beat an incumbent black mayor. And that you spent eight years as mayor playing on fears, real and imagined”:

When you appear before an Orthodox Jewish group and say that electing Bill Thompson, who just happens to be black, could cast the city back into a cauldron of crime, you don't need to spell out the real message. Because we remember you stoking racial divisions over the Crown Heights riots to beat an incumbent black mayor. And that you spent eight years as mayor playing on fears, real and imagined. And that your dismal presidential campaign tried to sell you as the last hope for protecting America from the mongrel hordes, domestic as well as furrin'. [NYMag.com, 10/19/09]