CBS Pounces on 'Potential Political Embarrassment for Rudy Giuliani'

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterLess than three weeks after the CBS Evening News used the indictments of Bernard Kerik to relay how “people” say he's “a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President,” Katie Couric pounced on a revelation not considered newsworthy by ABC and NBC as she teased Wednesday's newscast, “A potential political embarrassment for Rudy Giuliani: Questions about how he billed New York City taxpayers for his security. Was he trying to hide something?” ABC and NBC ran full stories on Bill Clinton's inaccurate claim that he “opposed Iraq from the beginning,” a remark CBS limited to a brief item from Couric following the Giuliani story.

Reporter Byron Pitts asserted “the Giuliani campaign is once again fending off new questions about an old affair,” explaining that “according to the Web site Politico.com, in 2000, as Giuliani was beginning his not-so-secret extramarital relationship with Judith Nathan, the woman who eventually became his third wife, he billed obscure city agencies thousands of dollars in expenses for his police security detail in the Hamptons off Long Island where Nathan was living.”

[UPDATE, 10pm EST Nov. 29: On Thursday night, November 29, both ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News aired stories on this subject, with denials from Giuliani about any impropriety. The CBS Evening News also ran a follow up with Giuliani denouncing the attack as “a political hit job.”]

My November 9 NewsBusters posting, “CBS on Kerik: 'Poster Child as to Why Giuliani Shouldn't Be President,'” recounted:

The CBS Evening News, which has aired only one full story on the scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton's fugitive donor Norman Hsu, on Friday night ran its second full story on the impact on Rudy Giuliani of Bernard Kerik's indictments as Byron Pitts told Kerik that “people” say you're “a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President.” Back on August 31, in the newscast's only full story on Hsu, fill-in anchor Harry Smith didn't even mention Hillary Clinton's name in his introduction, but on Friday Katie Couric put Giuliani front and center: “Kerik isn't the only one who could face trouble. It's also bad news for his friend and mentor, Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani.”

In the Hsu story, CBS reporter Sandra Hughes didn't warn about any negative impact on the Hillary Clinton campaign or speculate about what Hillary Clinton knew about Hsu's criminal past or suspect bundling. But in the Giuliani piece, Pitts predicted: "Kerik's legal problems could mean political problems for Giuliani and the inevitable questions of the presidential candidate: What did he know and when did he know it?" In an exchange with Kerik, Pitts proposed: "There are people who say that you, forgive me, are a poster child as to why Giuliani shouldn't be President, because of your own troubles."...
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the November 28 CBS Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Now to the presidential campaign and new problems tonight for Rudy Giuliani. Some potentially embarrassing questions came up today that date back to his days as mayor of New York. Byron Pitts is covering the Giuliani campaign.

BYRON PITTS: On a night when they would rather fine tune answers for tonight's GOP debate, the Giuliani campaign is once again fending off new questions about an old affair. According to the Web site Politico.com, in 2000, as Giuliani was beginning his not-so-secret extramarital relationship with Judith Nathan, the woman who eventually became his third wife, he billed obscure city agencies thousands of dollars in expenses for his police security detail in the Hamptons off Long Island where Nathan was living. For example, in one instance, $34,000 worth of travel expenses were placed in the budget for the New York City Loft Board.

MIKE ALLEN, POLITICO.COM: These were records that the city controller had tried to get in the past, but the mayor's offices said they couldn't be released because of security.

PITTS: Giuliani's campaign had this response, calling the story a non-issue: Quote, "This is common practice. The NYPD is responsible for providing security for the mayor of New York around the clock." But the question isn't about his security detail, it's about how the expenses were billed.

PROF. LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's coming out at the worst possible time for Giuliani, just as voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are beginning to make up their minds finally. It reinforces his biggest problem, which is that, not just his liberal positions on social issues, but also the fact that he's had a very messy private life.

PITTS: And messy is always unwelcome for a campaign that would rather stay on message. Byron Pitts, CBS News, New York.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center