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Will Rudy Giuliani's Reaction to the Shooting of Patrick Dorismond Hurt Him in the New York Senate Race?

Aired March 29, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET



MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: What those records demonstrate is a propensity of violence. That is important for people to know.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani under fire for releasing background information on police shooting victim Patrick Dorismond. Should there be an investigation? And will it hurt Giuliani in his race against Hillary Rodham Clinton?


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: He has led the rush to judgment. That is not leadership.


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, Republican Congressman Vito Fossella of New York, a Rudy Giuliani supporter, and in New York, Mark Green, New York City public advocate and a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Ordered to the court: That's the word tonight for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In response to a complaint filed by tonight's guest, Mark Green, Giuliani has been ordered to court on April 13 to show he did not break the law in releasing sealed arrest records of Patrick Dorismond, shot and killed by undercover New York police officers a couple of weeks ago.

Giuliani insists he did nothing wrong, but black leaders accuse him of trying to demonize the victim before all the facts are known, and the mayor's move has lost him popular support: 50 percent of New Yorkers say they disapprove of the mayor's handling of the Dorismond's incident, and in its wake, two new polls now show the race for Senate between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton a dead heat.

So tonight, Rudy in hot water: A bum rap or serious trouble for the mayor? -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Mark Green, in the old days when you used to be a host, co-host on the left of CROSSFIRE, you were always a square shooter. So I expect you to be honest in and agree with me here that when you dug up a 100-year-old provision in the city charter to take the mayor to court, this was strictly election-year politics, wasn't it?

MARK GREEN, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: Absolutely not. If people remember me, proudly, as the Bill Press of the decade ago...


... the same hair color, the same role, and I have since tumbled in my career, but now I'm not a commentator on CROSSFIRE, Bob. I've been elected the public advocate of New York City. My job is to be a watchdog over city government: to look out for incompetence, inefficiency or abuse of power.

Under the city charter it says if the public advocate thinks that the mayor has abused his power or violated the law, I have a right to seek an expedited judicial inquiry and let a court decide.

Bob, it's not political. It's legal. The mayor says what he did was legal.

NOVAK: But...

GREEN: Let me just say one more sentence. I say what he did is obviously illegal. Why not let an impartial judge decide?

NOVAK: Because there's nothing in the law that says that you cannot or can release documents about somebody who is already dead. There's nothing in the law on that, is there, Mark?

GREEN: Yes, there is. In the Holmes (ph) case, in the Emanuel (ph) case, in the Gray (ph) case -- three cases, Bob -- a defendant in a wrongful death case said, gee, I'd like to get into the sealed records of the family court in order to help my case. And a judge said, no, you just can't unseal confidential records for your own interests.

Mayor Giuliani has done something that no mayor has done. You can open confidential records after a court proceeding and a court order, not by mayoral fiat in order to slander a man whom the police department has already killed and can't talk back.

NOVAK: All right. Now, the killing of course was an accident. He got into a scuffle with an undercover cop and a gun accidentally went off according to the policeman.


Now why -- just a minute. Why the records were then released on the dead man is explained by the mayor. And let's take a listen to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: What those records demonstrate is a propensity to violence. That is important for people to know in judging whether the police officers were telling the truth, that he began the violence and caused his own death...


NOVAK: What's your response to that?

GREEN: Mayor Giuliani initially said let's not jump to conclusions, let district attorney Bob Morgenthau, probably the most famous prosecutor in the country, come to his decision. I agreed with that.

One day later, Bob, Mayor Giuliani reversed course and is prejudicing public opinion by trying to go into records that legislatures and courts have said are secret.

One last thing: He is rubbing salt into a racial wound. He is exaggerating. He said Mr. Dorismond has spent much of his adult life punching people. If he were alive, that would be slander. In a city that's so multiracial and cultural, after this horrible racial tragedy, for him to compound it by assaulting him...

NOVAK: Why is that a racial...

GREEN: ... a second time.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Why is that a racial tragedy? I don't understand. Are you saying he was killed because he was black?

GREEN: No, Bob. You're in Washington. In New York, our state attorney general has shown how often people are stopped and frisked, disproportionately because of racial reasons.

Bob, the reason this has caused such an enormous outbreak is that four unarmed black men have been shot by the police in the last year. I have never said that they were criminally liable because of it. I'll let a district attorney make that decision. But the African- American community feels that there is a huge rift between cops and communities of color.

PRESS: Let's bring in Congressman Fossella here. Congressman, you and I disagree on most issues, but I have always found you to be fair. So let's back up before we talk about the law and just talk about the reaction.

You don't know what happened on that night. I don't know. The mayor doesn't know. Nobody knows exactly what happens.

I mean, it could have been that Mr. Dorismond provoked this shooting. It could be that the cops overreacted. We don't know. Wouldn't it be fair and expected for the mayor to withhold judgment until there's a hearing and the facts are known, and not go out and try to cast, you know, doubt on the victim?

REP. VITO FOSSELLA (R), NEW YORK: I'll take it one step further, Bill, and frankly, I'll put myself in the mayor's shoes. This was an incident, like it happens very often in the city in the last several years -- let's put things in perspective, if I may, for a second. There seems to be "jump on the police attitude."

You know, since 1990 , 29 police officers were killed in the line of duty, 125,000 sustained injuries in the line of duty. So just to put a perspective to it, we've also seen crime drop dramatically.

Now, it's my personal opinion that I would prefer to let the system play out, do the appropriate investigation. And I think it's obvious that there were those who were just jumping into the fray. And obviously, my sympathies to the Dorismond family. But in this case, I think everybody would be best left to let the system play out and let the facts come out and let the people of New York, instead of dividing -- as there are those who claim they don't want to divide, but in reality they are -- let's just let the system play out and let's not jump to conclusions one way or the other.

PRESS: Well, congressman, just too bad you're not the mayor. That is not what Rudy Giuliani did. He released those sealed records.

Why would he release those records if not to try to smear the victim? What other purpose would he have?

FOSSELLA: I don't know. Only from what I've read that -- and I think you just showed it -- that he thought that the public opinion was being formed on one side. Now, again, I'm not one to step into his shoes or Mark Green's shoes. Obviously, Mark has every right to bring the case, he claims, so I take him at his word.

But the more important aspect to this, I think, is to put things in perspective and how it's going to relate -- I think what you want to do -- is how is this going to relate to the Senate race. And the ordinary New Yorker, who has seen crime drop dramatically over the last seven years -- you know, when you look at it the possibility that almost 8,000 people's lives have been saved by fighting crime and putting people behind bars in addition to the other quality of life concerns, I think the ordinary New Yorker is going look at the two candidates, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, and decide accordingly, and not one incident or two incidents as they occur.

PRESS: Well, we are talking about this one incident at this moment, congressman. And I want to come back to the records that were released, because the mayor said, you know, maybe this guy, Dorismond, wasn't an altar boy, all right? What the records show when they were released is that he had plead guilty twice to disorderly conduct as a teenager. When he was 13 years old -- 13 years old he was arrested for a juvenile robbery count. The case never went to trial.

I mean, that's it. That's the record. This is hardly a hardened criminal, would you say, congressman?

FOSSELLA: Based on that, no. But again, I'm humble enough to suggest to you that I am not standing in the mayor's shoes or anybody else for that matter. It's my observation and personal opinion to let the system play out. There are people jumping in from every sector of the city to try to incite this, and that's a shame.

But the people of New York, I think, are on balance much better off today because of the reduction in crime in the last seven years than they were in 1993.

NOVAK: All right. I would like the mayor to speak for himself one more time on Mr. Dorismond's background and the condition Mr. Dorismond was in that evening that he was killed. Let's listen to the mayor.


GIULIANI: It turns out that there was marijuana in his body. There are going to be other facts that come out here that suggest a very different picture than the one that the demagogues and those who for political purposes are trying to paint it and have a willing press that is willing to go along with it.


NOVAK: Isn't it -- isn't it true, Mark, that people like you are his political enemies and you're willing accomplices in the press just want to lay it on Rudy on this issue?

GREEN: You know, Bob, I agree with the congressman. I thought we shouldn't jump to conclusions and should sit back and let the system go forward. It's Mayor Giuliani who jumped to conclusions, and then is a modern McCarthy by slandering Mr. Dorismond. It's been reported, not yet proved to me, that he either inhaled secondhand smoke or had traces of marijuana in his body. Point one: What the hell does that have to do with the police possibly taunting him into drug buy, him saying no, then ending up dead after a gunshot wound? They couldn't have known he had marijuana in his body? And by the way, we actually don't shoot people in our city or country should they have marijuana.

NOVAK: The police say he attacked the policeman.

GREEN: Excuse me?

NOVAK: He scuffled with the policeman.

GREEN: A policeman came up to him, taunted him, and said "Where can I buy drugs?" The police officer had never said he was a police officer. He was undercover. Bob, there are two issues here. Is crime down in New York? And are we better for it? You bet. That has nothing to do with the reason I went to court. Mayor Giuliani's record in court on First Amendment and freedom of information cases is worse than the current Chicago Bulls. He is a confident and assertive mayor, but when he says, I obey the law, 90 percent of the time the courts say, you broke the law. It is important to establish the principle that no mayor is above the law, and that's all I try to do in my proceeding.

NOVAK: Mark, before we take the break, they had kind of an uproarious funeral for poor Mr. Dorismond, and there was a lot of scuffling. Let's see if we've got some film to show of that. And they burned the American flag. Can you -- do you condone the burning of the American flag at the man's funeral?

GREEN: Bob, the answer to that is no. A couple of times a year, wackos burn the American flag. It's far more important that crime goes down and police misconduct go down simultaneously. And if San Diego and Boston can achieve that, why can't New York? It has nothing to do with flag burning. Anybody who throws a bottle at a police officer should be prosecuted, separate question. The mayor should not unilaterally, by fiat, break the law. And I'm just asking a court to -- by the way, the court accepted jurisdiction...

NOVAK: We have to take a break, Mark Green.

And when we come back, we'll talk about something that's really all on our minds: Rudy versus Hillary.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The eyes of a nation are on New York's U.S. Senate race. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudy Giuliani have been bouncing up and down in the polls, and currently, it looks like a dead heat. We're talking to Democrat Mark Green, New York City's public advocate, who was once CROSSFIRE's co-host on the left, and to Republican Vito Fossella, Congressman from Staten Island in Brooklyn.

PRESS: Congressmen, promise to get to the politics of this in just a second. Just a couple of more questions about this Dorismond incident. Number one, Bob just showed the clip of Rudy Giuliani pointing out that there may have been traces of marijuana in this man's body. You wouldn't suggest or agree, Congressman, that that makes him a legitimate target for my policeman, would you?

FOSSELLA: I don't understand the question fully, but again, I'm not going to step -- there was a -- there's a lot of buy-and-bust operations that occur daily. And I might add, Again, as a resident of this city all of my life, I have seen dramatic change in the last seven years.

PRESS: We have had that...

FOSSELLA: And it's easy to jump into the facts. I think, Bill, you acknowledge at the front you don't know, nor do I. So I am going to let the judicial system play out as it does day in and day out in New York City. I am not going second-guess anybody here.

PRESS: Just one more question here: Today in "The New York Post" -- we said we haven't heard that cop's side of the story. Today in "The New York Post," big spread: "The Cops Side of the Story." OK, I want to just summarize it quickly, and a quick question. They're getting off duty 1:00. They've made three arrests. They decide they want to make another one. They see two guys walking out of a bar. One of the cops walks up to them -- they're in plain clothes -- and says hey, basically, do you know why I can buy some crack? And Dorismond gets angry at being asked that, and says "What are you asking me about that stuff?" Scuffle ensues. Would you at least admit, Congressman, that it was the police who created this situation, not Mr. Dorismond?

FOSSELLA: No, I'm not going to admit that, because I don't know the full set of circumstances and facts.

PRESS: That's the cop's own story.

FOSSELLA: Well again, that's not the full set of facts. And I think in the clip you just showed, the mayor said there are going to be more facts that come out. So I am not going to jump into what the right decision was here, nor will I jump into every other buy-and-bust operation that takes place across the city, that I believe, on balance, acts in the best interests of the people of the city of New York, that keeps drug dealers and others off the streets, so I am not going to second-guess the cop here.

PRESS: Mark Green, the House Appropriations Committee has come out with some interesting numbers on Mrs. Clinton's air travel back and forth from Washington to New York, costs the government $182,500. She reimbursed $36,700. The cost to the taxpayer: $145,800.

reimbursed $36,700. Cost to the taxpayer, $145,800. But the Republican National Committee says that is grossly understated. It doesn't count over $600,000 that she has cost -- cost traveling outside of New York on Air Force One.

Whether -- whatever it is, why in the world should the taxpayer pay any, any of her expenses as a candidate for the U.S. Senate?

GREEN: Bob, did you ask President Reagan in '84 or President Bush in '92 to pay all of their expenses when they traveled while they were simultaneously a candidate and an officeholder. Bob, what's -- I didn't quite get the transition from the shooting of Patrick Dorismond to Mrs. Clinton's jet travels...

NOVAK: I'm changing the subject.

GREEN: But I'll -- but I -- but you're the host. I'm just a guest.

NOVAK: That's good.

GREEN: Listen, there's a precedent. What Mrs. Clinton is doing is simply following the precedent of earlier situations where someone is simultaneously a candidate and an officeholder...

NOVAK: Is she an officeholder?

GREEN: We've got to be real careful -- we have to be real careful when we second-guess the use and cost of the Secret Service, just as I am not going to second-guess Mayor Giuliani...

NOVAK: No, no, no, no, no, no.

GREEN: Excuse me, Mayor Giuliani taking security with him when...

NOVAK: Mark, this is, this is...

GREEN: ... he travels around the state.

NOVAK: No, no, no, you can't do that. This is not Secret Service. This is airplane costs, strictly airplane costs. We're not counting -- why can't she -- why can't she charter a plane? Why does she have to take a government plane? She can have her Secret Service on the chartered plane.

GREEN: She is following the exact rules that predecessors have followed. I don't remember you saying a peep about it, and you were almost as prominent in those years as you are now, Bob. Obviously, this is being cycled up now by Republicans for to the political reason of her Senate race, and that's OK.

NOVAK: Well, after...

GREEN: Let them have their hearings for all I care.

NOVAK: After the Dorismond...


NOVAK: Go ahead.

GREEN: What's more important, Bob, let's talk about the issue of the day. Apparently voters in New York, in my view, think worse than a wacko burning a flag is a mayor burning the law and saying, I'm above the law.

NOVAK: I'm glad, I'm glad...

GREEN: That was my concern.

NOVAK: I'm glad you brought that up, because the Marist poll taken after -- taken this week after this Dorismond incident shows that the Jewish vote in New York goes for Giuliani: 48 percent, Clinton, 42 percent. And it shows support among white women: Giuliani, 51 percent, Clinton, 36 percent. Those are startling figures for a Democrat in the state of New York. They're worse than your figures when you ran against Al D'Amato, I think.

GREEN: Bob, the Zogby poll in "The New York Post" was the one taken after this terrible tragedy. And what it...

NOVAK: This was taken afterwards, too.

GREEN: ... one second. The Marist poll, if you want to talk politics, had Mayor Giuliani six, seven points ahead of Mrs. Clinton last month. The new poll taken after this tragedy shows it a tie. Zogby has said that there is a substantial movement in this week, two weeks, toward Mrs. Clinton because of what happened on the street two weeks ago.

May I just share one anecdote?

PRESS: Mark -- Mark, no, we can't. Mark, at that point, we've got to stop it. Again, we are the hosts and we're out of time.

GREEN: I understand that.

PRESS: You understand that as a former co-host. Thank you very much, Mark Green, for joining us. Congressman Fossella, always good to have you back on CROSSFIRE.

FOSSELLA: Thank you kindly.

PRESS: And closing comments coming up: Bob Novak and I have the last word.


PRESS: OK, tomorrow, in the crossfire, those missing White House e-mails. Did the White House intentionally hold back information, or was it an honest goof? Bob and I debate that with Larry Klayman (ph) and Stan Brand (ph) tomorrow night 7:30 p.m. Eastern right on CNN -- Bob.

NOVAK: The fact is, Bill, that in New York City the rate of people getting killed by the police is six times less than it is in Miami: one-fourth this past, only 11 compared to 40 in 1990 -- 1991 when there was a Democratic mayor. So this is a conspiracy by Democratic politicians and their outriders in the media to undercut Giuliani against Hillary.

Are you part of that conspiracy?

PRESS: It is no conspiracy. It is standing up for an unarmed man who rejected a drug deal and got shot dead. How could that happen, Bob Novak? You should not be taking up for the cops.

NOVAK: You're a part of that conspiracy.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT


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