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Crossfire

How Much Do Voters Care About Rudy Giuliani's Private Life?

Aired May 10, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: For quite some time, it's probably been apparent that Donna and I lead, in many ways, independent and separate lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight, Rudy Giuliani announces he is seeking a legal separation from his wife. Does it matter? How much do voters care about the private lives of public officials?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Mary Matalin. In the CROSSFIRE, Salon.com Washington correspondent Jake Tapper, and in New York, Rich Lowry, editor of "The National Review."

Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Yet another surprising twist in the soap opera New York Senate race. Amid endless media scrutiny and speculation of his marriage, Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced late today that he and his wife of 16 years, Donna Hanover, are working on legal separation agreement, citing restoring privacy and protecting their 10- and 14-year-old children as motivating the formalization of separate lives. Giuliani praised his estranged wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: Donna Hanover is a wonderful woman, and she's a wonderful mother. She's someone that I respect tremendously. The fact we've grown independent, we've grown more separate over the years, who knows why those things happen?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: Donna Hanover was equally sad, but less resigned, claiming to have worked hard at restoring a marriage wrecked, she charges, by her husband's relationship then a woman who was then his aide, Christine Latagano Nicholas, was his press secretary, and today released a statement why Hanover issued today's statement.

The mayor has conceded a very good friendship with the nurse, now of New York newspaper's fame, so another one bites the dust. What is it about political marriages? Should politicians be held to a higher standard, or do we invade privacy? And do the private peccadillos of public officials have any political impact?

Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Yes, Mary.

Rich Lowry, let me start with you this evening. The last couple of years, Americans have embraced this old-fashioned notion that political leaders are meant to be role models. I've heard that over, and over and over again. Do you consider Rudy Giuliani a role model?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, Bill, I think there should be a zone of privacy for politicians, but you know, it requires a little discretion on their part. When Bill Clinton has a relationship with an intern in the Oval Office, that's reckless and something that's bound to become public, and when Rudy Giuliani is dining in public restaurants with his girlfriend, it's bound to become an issue.

And you know, What the public doesn't like in these matters, it doesn't like to be subjected to the messiness of politicians' personal live, and that helped Clinton a lot, because during impeachment, people just wanted it to go away. I think in this case, it's gotten so messy, people just might want Rudy Giuliani's senatorial candidacy to go away.

PRESS: And maybe it will. We'll get to that a little bit later.

But you know, one of the things I've heard in the last hour or so is that it was different between Clinton and Rudy, because Clinton lied about it and Rudy told the truth. According to his wife late today, that may not necessarily be the case.

Let's listen to what Donna Hanover had to say to reporters late this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONNA HANOVER, GIULIANI'S WIFE: Today's turn of events brings me great sadness. I had hoped to keep this marriage together. For several years it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member. Beginning last May, I made a major effort to bring us back together. And Rudy and I re-established some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point, he chose another path.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, of course, the mayor at the time denied that relationship, that it was anything more than a professional relationship. So according to the wife, if what she says is true, the mayor was cheating and lying about it, right, Rich? Makes it a little more serious, doesn't it?

LOWRY: Well, he wasn't lying under oath, which was the big offense of President Clinton. no President Clinton...

PRESS: What difference does that make?

LOWRY: Bill, President Clinton, he lied under oath, and he used his authority and the power of his office to try to cover up what he had done. You know, he perverted the office to his own personal ends, and that was the big sin here.

Now, Bill, there is no doubt, this is going to hurt Rudy, because politicians get away with this kind of thing when they have supportive and understanding wives. You know, Hillary has been a huge help to Clinton in that regard. John McCain's first wife made it possible for McCain to sort of slide by misconduct in his first marriage. What Rudy clearly doesn't have here is a supportive wife, and that's going to hurt him a lot.

PRESS: Well, I just want to understand, before we bring Jake Tapper in here, that this is moral relativism espoused by "The National Review" that you can cheat?

LOWRY: Come on, Bill, no, what do you mean? Hey. what's the moral relativism?

PRESS: Let me ask my question.

LOWRY: Please explain. Please explain.

PRESS: I'm just going to tell you if you'd please stop interrupting me. It's easier for you to hear the question if you're not interrupting, OK?

LOWRY: OK, go ahead, Bill. I'm waiting.

PRESS: That the moral relativism is that one can cheat on his wife and lie about it and it's OK, as long as he doesn't lie about it under oath, which is what you just said.

LOWRY: No, no, Bill. Look, clearly, lying under oath is worse than other kind of lies, but no, I don't like lying in any circumstances and I don't like politicians who commit adultery, and it may be that there is no longer a zone of privacy, and it may be that politicians who are married can no longer have girlfriends, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

MATALIN: Can I just, for the record -- and there's nothing to laugh about here, and it was in the scripted open. The woman alleged to have this affair denies it. Rudy denies it. You're accusing him of a lie that has not been proved.

PRESS: I did say, Mary...

MATALIN: You said he lied about it. You said he lied about it.

PRESS: No, pardon me, look at tape. I did say very carefully. If what the wife is saying is correct -- I did say that. I stand by it.

LOWRY: Bill, you know, maybe you need an independent counsel to look into this and get the facts for you, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

PRESS: If there is an independent counsel, he might have lied under oath.

MATALIN: Well, this is just part of the problem here, OK, this zone privacy. Here's another woman being disparaged who probably did nothing more than be a close aide of the candidate and the mayor before we go off attacking her.

JAKE TAPPER, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SALON.COM: Well, not according to Rudy Giuliani's wife.

MATALIN: Who also said -- OK, I don't want to sides in this divorce having been the only one in this group that's ever been divorced. They're always ugly. But for people who want a zone of privacy, as Donna Hanover has always claimed to have wanted, do we really to know this -- I re-established some of our personal intimacy through the fall? That means they resumed the sex life. I don't want to know that.

TAPPER: Yes, that's a little much. That's a little much.

MATALIN: OK, so let's just she has now put off her zone of privacy, But let's talk about this zone of privacy and Rudy's behavior. Here's what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: As far as my personal conversations with Donna, with my children, with Judith or with my close friends, I'm not going to tell you about that. I need to have some zone of privacy of people that I can talk to confidentially.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATALIN: OK, in this case, Rudy has never put his stuff out on the line, as Ms. Hanover did today, and he has not been a hypocrite about this, as has been the allegation here. All during the Clinton mess, he steadfastly said his private behavior is his own and it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment. Isn't that the political crime, hypocrisy, which Rudy Giuliani is nowhere near accused of, or should be accused of?

TAPPER: Yes, I agree with you, and politicians should have a zone of privacy, assuming that it doesn't go against their public statements.

But that said, the toothpaste is out of the tube. And the question is, how does this affect the election, in a very, very tight election? Rudy Giuliani has always projected an image of being in control. The last week or two he has been completely out of control; his personal life is just a mess. Second, Rudy Giuliani has been sending out fund-raising letters, projecting a very conservative image. In one of the letters, he said that he thought that the Ten Commandments should be posted in every school. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't checked out the Ten Commandments in a few weeks, but somehow he violated one of them.

LOWRY: We believe that, Jake. Somehow we believe that. Why do I believe that?

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Well, you know, maybe you should tell your mayor to check them out. He seems to be a little more in need of a refresher course than me.

MATALIN: You're saying that If a public official is holding up a standard for behavior for everybody, that when he has a problem in his own marriage, and marriage, by both their accounts, is a mess, is that your charge of hypocrisy?

TAPPER: Do you know what I think? I think it doesn't even matter what I think, or any of us. I think the question is -- anybody within the chattering class, we all kind of knew about what was going on, and I'm in the upper east side and, you know, in the upper west side, people knew what was up with Rudy and his social life. But the question is, did the people in Long Island know? Did the people in Westchester County, Did the people in Upstate New York? And how does it affect them?

MATALIN: No, here's the question. Do they care? Seventy-seven percent of them don't care.

TAPPER: But if 23 percent of them do care, in a very, very close election, if that's 2 percent of the people who are going to vote for Rudy and now are not, that affects the election.

PRESS: Go ahead, Rich, I know you want to jump in -- go ahead.

LOWRY: I think it's also worth noting that the people who are likeliest to care are Republican and conservative voters, because they're the people who take sexual morals seriously. So these kind of things always hurt Republicans more than Democrats. That's why you see, you know, Bob Livingston resigning while Clinton sticks it out with his party wholeheartedly behind his lying and his adultery.

PRESS: Rich, I want to pick up this theme of hypocrisy, which Mary raised, which is a good question, like who's the real hypocrite here. I mean, if you watch the mayor's, look at the mayor's administration, I mean, he's really acted almost as a high priest more than a mayor. You know, moral righteousness, drive the sex shops out of Times Square, post the 10 Commandments in every classroom, close down a museum because it has a piece of art that insults the Virgin Mary, all the same time he's cheating on his wife.

I mean, isn't there just a tad of hypocrisy here?

LOWRY: Bill, his private life tells us nothing about the importance or the rightness of his positions in terms of closing down sex shops or opposing the idea of funding art that desecrates the Virgin Mary. Those positions are all right and legitimate in their own right, and his private life has nothing to do about it. And it's really demagogic to suggest that it does.

TAPPER: Well, wait a second, wait a second, Rich, because on the mayor's radio show one time he did say -- some caller was upset about an X-rated movie theater in the neighborhood, and Mayor Giuliani actually suggested that that person film the individuals going in and out of the X-rated movie theater, which was perfectly legal. So this is a guy who has taken a very moralistic stand on a lot of issues, and I think the fact...

LOWRY: But Jake, see this is a standard -- liberals all the time (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stand that's impossible to live up to. We're all sinners, we all make mistakes in our private life. That doesn't mean we should try not to uphold public standards. And that's what Giuliani -- Giuliani, everyone in this city owes him a great debt for cracking down on crime and cracking down on smut. And I don't care whether he has a girlfriend or not. Those positions are right, and it's been a great benefit to the life of the city, there's no doubt about it.

PRESS: And every time I hear somebody talking about cracking down on crime, I remind them my wife was pick pocketed in Times Square the last time we were in New York City. There's still a long way to go, Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

LOWRY: We'll get the Street Crimes Unit on it, Bill, right away.

PRESS: Thank you, Rich. When we come back, we're going to take a break, gentlemen. When we come back, the big question is, after all of this, will Rudy Giuliani still be a candidate for the United States Senate?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. In two short weeks, Rudy Giuliani's dropped three bombshells on New York: prostate cancer, a girlfriend, and now a separation. And by the way, his office says he's still running for the United States Senate, or is he? Can Rudy really juggle all those personal problems and a U.S. Senate race at the same time? Just one of the big questions we're asking tonight of our guests. In New York City, Rich Lowry, editor of "The National Review." Here in D.C., Jake Tapper, Washington correspondent for Salon.com -- Mary.

MATALIN: I so didn't want to go here, Jake, but since the implication here is that Judy -- Rudy is somehow in the same category...

TAPPER: Judy is the girlfriend.

MATALIN: ... as Clinton -- Judy is the -- the woman to -- of whom he said he relies on and needs. That was the language of...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... confusing, because you said Rudy. You were confused. Rudy is the mayor; Judy is the girlfriend.

MATALIN: This is a guy -- I just -- I want to make a distinction, because we want to judge these politicians, we're looking for lapses or appearances of character. He's clearly in love with this person...

TAPPER: That's sweet.

MATALIN: ... and he's in a life-threatening situation. Is this the same thing as an intern in the Oval Office? Is this the same as Paula Jones or Kathleen Willey, who were government employees? Is this the same as using your marriage as a political prop or putting your wife out there and humiliating her and lying to her? No, it is not.

TAPPER: Donna Hanover didn't seem too psyched today, I have to say. I mean, and you know, it's weird that Rich and Mary keep bringing up President Clinton, because we're not -- he's not -- because we're talking about him.

MATALIN: Because you're making...

TAPPER: We're talking about...

MATALIN: ... you're making the implication that Rudy is somehow -- should be painted with the same brush as Clinton, whose judgment was evidenced -- his bad judgment was evidenced by taking that risk and being so immature in the Oval Office, and doing it while we're at war, dropping bombs.

LOWRY: Jake -- Jake, what are we supposed to think of when the topic of adultery comes up? I mean, President Clinton naturally comes to mind.

TAPPER: Is that right? OK, that's interesting, I can see that.

LOWRY: Of course he does. He dragged -- he dragged the country through a scandal for a year because of his reckless...

TAPPER: And we can keep changing the subject to Bill Clinton all you want, but I thought we were supposed to be talking about Rudy Giuliani.

PRESS: Let me ask -- let me ask you, Rich, I mean, since you want to talk about Bill Clinton, I mean, Rudy Giuliani has been seen in public by members of the media with this woman, whom he says is a very close friend, many times -- I mean, at the New Year's parade, at public restaurants. There's even a press party, a dinner for reporters where he brought her, not Donna Hanover, and nobody wrote this story, no one.

Why did the media give Rudy such a break? Why do they have such a double standard when it comes to a guy like -- when it comes to the mayor?

LOWRY: I don't think there's a double standard. I think the media, when they know a person well, they tend to sort of give them a few breaks. But once, there's kind of a break in the dam, when the "New York Post" published the picture of this woman, then it all -- the floodgates are open and it all gushes out. And that's what happened in this case. I don't think there's really a double standard here, Bill.

PRESS: Well, let me ask you again about this Senate race. I mean, is -- is it -- we know what his office says today. But let's just talk realistically. Is a -- is prostate cancer, the new relationship, severing with the old relationship, and a Senate race just too much for one human being to handle?

LOWRY: Yes, it wouldn't surprise me, Bill, if he drops out. You know, I don't think he was that enthusiastic about this race to begin with. It requires him traveling to places he doesn't like, such as Rochester, to win a job he's not that interested in.

You know, this is going to be a big -- if Rudy wins, it's going to be a big comedown for him, because he's going to go from running a police force in the greatest city in the world to patting Trent Lott's back. And I just don't think that's that attractive to him to begin with, and then you throw these latest personal developments in the mix, and I think it's a smart bet that he just might drop out.

PRESS: Do you agree with what some of what Governor Pataki's aides were quoted last week as saying that he didn't want this -- he didn't want to run in the first place and he was kind of looking for a way out?

LOWRY: That wouldn't surprise me. I mean, I think his competitive juices got flowing here, you know, the idea of going against, you know, the highest-profile liberal in the country in the national spotlight was very attractive to him. But I don't think he really loves the idea of being a senator, and frankly, I don't think he's necessarily the strongest Republican candidate. I think you can make a case that he's the weakest, and I think there's a good chance that any other Republican would beat Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani wouldn't.

MATALIN: Let me ask you that in a reverse way, Jake, an argument that I actually bought of the Clintons...

TAPPER: Yes.

MATALIN: Going to defend him, OK, before you jump down my throat? -- was that through all of this, before we found out he was lying again, we have held our marriage together. If Rudy, who is clearly in love with this woman, works it out with Donna so she's not out there flapping her jaws anymore, any response favorably to his prostate cancer treatment, doesn't that make him a stronger candidate? It certainly makes him a stronger person. And isn't that somebody you want fighting for you in the United States Senate?

TAPPER: That which does not kill us makes us stronger. A little Nietzsche. Thank you, Mary.

(LAUGHTER)

I think that it's -- I think it's certainly possible. I think that it's -- you know, Pataki's people don't want him to run to begin with anyway.

MATALIN: Well, there is that.

TAPPER: So, that's why those aides are leaking that. But I think that with Rudy it's personal. And I think that he now feels personally challenged and I think that he will run. I really do.

I mean, this is all just obviously speculation.

LOWRY: I agree with you, Jake, that it is personal. I think that's part of what makes him such a weak candidate. He doesn't have any real philosophical rationale for running against Hillary. He wouldn't get -- he's certainly not going to get the Conservative Party line, which is going to drain away several hundred thousand votes.

So I think Republicans would be much better with a candidate who gets all three lines, the Republican, the conservative and the right to life, and that could take the fight to Hillary on the issues in a way that Rudy won't.

TAPPER: Rich...

PRESS: Go ahead.

TAPPER: Sorry. Well, I was just going to say Rudy is, you know, according to the latest "New York Times" poll he's eight points behind. According to the "New York Daily News" he's four points behind. So I mean, if this is a good time to get out, it would be now, because he's certainly not doing so hot.

PRESS: Rich, not to jump on the mayor too hard tonight, because I think his private business is his private business, I just want to quote something he said the other day. He said: "Somebody's private life should be left alone, and the mere fact you're a public official does not mean that you are not a human being and you don't have the issues and things that go on that other human beings do."

I agree 100 percent with that. Do you?

LOWRY: Yes. No, I do, ideally. But you know, we live in an extremely competitive media environment where the press just tends to fasten on to some of these thing. You know, I would prefer not to know about Rudy Giuliani's private life, but I'm afraid we just don't live in that -- that kind of world anymore.

MATALIN: And let me just end that, because we have to end. He also said that if it doesn't affect your job, which wasn't the case with Clinton.

Rich Lowry, thank you so much. I hope you end up supporting Giuliani more strongly than that...

(LAUGHTER)

... if you're voting in New York. Jake Tapper, always a pleasure. You're a doll.

TAPPER: Thank you, Mary.

MATALIN: Geezer...

(LAUGHTER)

... we're the only guys who have any marriages to talk about. And when we come back, let's talk about troubled marriages and have our closing comments. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATALIN: Does a 6-year-old have political beliefs? That's the question facing three judges in Atlanta tomorrow as they decide whether Elian Gonzalez can apply for political asylum. Tomorrow night, we will be joined by two members of Congress to talk about this important hearing. That's Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on CNN.

Elian's back!

PRESS: Back!

(LAUGHTER)

MATALIN: The point of this conversation is supposed to be the impact on the New York Senate race, and if an intern in the Oval Office didn't hurt Clinton, a nurse in the news is not going to hurt Giuliani. Who's going to raise the issue? Miss marriage dysfunctional Hillary Clinton.

It's not an issue, shouldn't be an issue. He hasn't been a hypocrite, and you're not going to make him one by wishing it was so.

PRESS: I am not trying to make him a hypocrite. Listen, I believe that what counts -- this should not be an issue in the Senate race. What should be considered in the Senate race is which one, assuming he stays in, will to the best job for New York, not about their private life. I agree, to use Richard Cohen's phrase, that both of these relationships, both these people are "maritally challenged."

But -- but, you know, the point is though that how much can one human being juggle. I don't think he can juggle this much. That's the point.

MATALIN: I think he can.

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

MATALIN: From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us again tomorrow night for our Elian Gonzalez hearing show on CROSSFIRE.

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