Before deciding to run for president, Rudy Giuliani might have consulted the late William Faulkner, who studiously said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” If America’s mayor didn’t know that before, he certainly knows it now.
They keep coming, don’t they? Those hauntings from the past. First, his friend and former police commissioner Bernard Kerik was hit with a 16-count indictment last week on various charges of corruption and mail and tax fraud. Then, this week comes Judith Regan, once a Kerik mistress and former publisher of ReganBooks, claiming in a lawsuit that two executives at her imprint’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., told her to lie when investigators questioned her about Kerik. The lies, she says, were meant to protect Giuliani’s presidential bid.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Giuliani told reporters on Wednesday, when news broke of Regan’s suit. “And, it sounds to me like a kind of gossip-column story more than a real story.”
Giuliani knows all about that. His colorful life even includes infamously comical episodes when he performed at political roasts dressed as a woman.
“Rudy’s led a tabloid life,” says New York historian and author Terry Golway. “Let’s face it. When your wife has a press conference to address the state of your marriage, that’s tabloid material. He’s invited that kind of thing.” (Said wife, Donna Hanover, found out about her separation from Giuliani when the then-mayor held a news conference of his own.)
As much as the former mayor has attempted to distance himself from the troubles of Kerik and Regan, the fact remains that they were creatures of his New York, a legacy of the heady days when Giuliani lived large in Gracie Mansion.
This much we know: In 2001, a Lower Manhattan apartment meant to provide a haven for rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero reportedly became Kerik and Regan’s love nest. The two had come together while Kerik was writing his memoir, which ReganBooks published.
Regan’s $100 million lawsuit leveled against News Corp. and its HarperCollins unit this week alleges that in 2004 a senior News Corp. executive “counseled Regan to lie and withhold information from investigators concerning Kerik.”
This happened, the lawsuit claims, because the unnamed executive “believed she [Regan] had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Kerik’s Homeland Security nomination and more importantly Giuliani’s planned presidential campaign.”
We do not know what, if anything, Regan may have known that would have had a bearing on Kerik’s fate. Reportedly, she was but one of two Kerik mistresses.
Infamously, Kerik was forced to withdraw his nomination after it was revealed that he had not paid taxes for a nanny who was an undocumented worker. After a series of scandals that came tumbling forth about possible ties to a mob-related company, Kerik was formally charged last week with conspiracy, corruption and tax evasion.
“Everyone knew Bernie Kerik was a headline waiting to happen,” Golway says. “Everyone knew about the affair with Judith Regan. The one thing you heard the other week listening to the U.S. Attorney [Michael] Garcia talking about Kerik in tones of disapproval, those were the words of Rudy Giuliani from 20 years ago. They’re exactly what Rudy would have said about Kerik had he been prosecuting him 20 years ago.”
Instead Kerik was an integral part of the world Giuliani ruled over as ringmaster after he swept into the mayor’s office in 1993. Kerik flourished in that world. Once Giuliani’s personal driver, he went on to lead New York’s corrections and police departments. Regan exploded in her own field when, in 1994, Murdoch gave Regan her own publishing imprint. This was shortly before the launch of Fox News, Murdoch’s cable news alternative to CNN.
At the center of this, though, was Giuliani. There were the reports of an extended tryst with his press secretary. There was the revelation of his affair with Judith Nathan, his current wife, and the 2000 news conference where he announced his separation from second-wife Hanover. There was the judge’s ruling that Giuliani must stop bringing Nathan to Gracie Mansion while it was also occupied by his wife and children. Giuliani bunked, for a time, at the apartment of two gay friends.
From The New York Times:
The News Corporation controls many media outlets worldwide, including Twentieth Century Fox, The New York Post and the Fox News Channel, where Ms. Regan was once host of a talk show.
The Fox News Channel’s coverage of the presidential race has been a topic of some discussion within rival campaigns because the channel is directed by Mr. Giuliani’s friend of 20 years, Roger Ailes. But the network has strongly defended the balance of its coverage under Mr. Ailes, who served as media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, later officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding.
Most of the complaint explores what Ms. Regan says was an effort to discredit and defame her starting in November 2006, including the release of what she calls false and defamatory statements by company executives to The New York Post, which is owned by the News Corporation, and to The New York Times.
“We are fully confident that the evidence will show that Judith Regan was the victim of a vicious smear campaign engineered by News Corporation and HarperCollins,” Mr. Kerr said.
The assertion that the News Corporation has sought to protect Mr. Giuliani appears in the opening page of the filing. The document later revisits aspects of the assertion without providing a full account of what is alleged to have occurred or how it might be substantiated in court.
Ms. Regan says in the suit, though, that when she realized the company had been assembling material with which to justify firing her she called a company lawyer. She says she wanted to confirm that accusations she had made about executives’ creating a hostile workplace had been included in her personnel file. One of those accusations was that an executive had advised her to lie about Mr. Kerik to protect Mr. Giuliani.
“This smear campaign was necessary to advance News Corp.’s political agenda, which has long centered on protecting Rudy Giuliani’s presidential ambitions,” the court papers say.