Time Magazine has a new story out that maintains that Rudy Giuliani is inflating his experience on terrorism. In it, the magazine makes the following claim: “An analysis of 80 of Giuliani’s major speeches from 1993 to 2001 shows that he mentioned the danger of terrorism only once, in a brief reference to emergency preparedness.”
I can’t pass judgment on the story’s assertion that Giuliani’s claim to have studied terrorism for 30 years is false as the magazine suggests. But I can unequivocally state that Giuliani mentioned terrorism more than once.
From 1995 to 1997 I was a New York-based reporter for the Forward, a national Jewish weekly. This was before I was transferred to Washington. My beat was the city’s bevy of local and national Jewish groups. I didn’t blink when Giuliani made that assertion on the campaign trail because I heard him speak about terrorism with some frequency during the 1990s. I remember Giuliani speaking about terrorism on the two specific occasions:
The first was when Giuliani ejected Arafat, who had gone from being regarded as a terrorist prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords to a hero, from a United Nations reception at Lincoln Center. Here’s what UPI reported Giuliani, who referenced Arafat’s role in the terrorist slaying of Leon Klinghoffer in 1985, as saying: “‘I would not invite Yasser Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace,’ Giuliani told the Times. Giuliani said he was unable to forget the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s legacy of terrorism. The mayor, a former federal prosecutor, said he personally investigated terrorist acts that, he says, were later linked to the PLO, including the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. A wheelchair-bound New Yorker who talked back to his captors was pushed overboard in that incident. ‘He had no right to be there,’ Giuliani said. ‘And I think it was a good thing that he left…I would rather not have anyone who has been implicated in the murders of Americans there, if I had the discretion not to have him there.’ ”
It’s possible that this didn’t come up in a prepared speech, but it dominated New York’s newspapers for days, which is how mayors in New York make news. He, in fact, took heat for it. And, I’m not sure I’m remembering this correctly, but I think the reason Giuliani invoked Klinghoffer, was that he studied the possibility of prosecuting Arafat during the 1980s, which, while not 30 years ago, is more than 20.
The second time I know Giuliani talked about terrorism was in 1997. Giuliani made remarks after meeting with members of the city’s Jewish Community Relations Council. I was there. The meeting room was packed, far more crowded than usual. Giuliani came out and announced to a hushed room that an arrest had been made in Brooklyn of a Middle Easterner who had plotted to blow up targets, including subways, in the city.
Then Giuliani launched into at least a twenty minute address about the danger of terrorism in New York and around the world. I remember this as being a somewhat extemporaneous speech, but Giuliani spoke with eloquence and coherence. He spoke about the practice of suicide bombing in general and talked of the spate of bombings Israel had experienced the previous year. (I didn’t write this up at the tim because the speech came at the end of one news cycle and the start of another. It wouldn’t have been fresh in a weekly. I will try to find the brief.)
Giuliani’s record is certainly fair game. But this is one claim that flies in the face of my time covering him.