AP Portrayed Rudy as Cross-Dressing While Knocking Conservatives

Photo of Giuliani in a dress by Joe Demaria/AP on MSNBC

There’s another snide article about Rudy Giuliani in a dress. In the past, the media have gleefully reminded America that Rudy Giuliani has worn dresses during comedic performances such as the one on “Saturday Night Live,” but this April 14 AP article that appears on MSNBC took a different tone, one that leaves the reader with the impression that Giuliani is a transvestite. Along with a big picture of the former mayor “dressed in drag,” as the caption put it, the article elaborated in great giddy detail each time that Giuliani wore a dress or a costume like this:

It is difficult to shock New Yorkers, yet Rudy Giuliani teetered close to the line when he sauntered onto a stage wearing a platinum-blond wig, a face full of makeup, dainty white gloves and a frilly pink gown filled out in all the right places.

(...)

Shortly after winning re-election that year, Giuliani took his feminine side to a national audience. While hosting “Saturday Night Live,” he appeared in one skit as a bosomy, gray-haired Italian grandmother in lipstick and a flowered housedress, with stockings pulled halfway up his calves.

Instead of categorizing his dress-up routines for what they were, the AP portrayed them with a transvestite undertone while making sure the reader knew the comic bits “could significantly damage his chances” in the conservative primaries and in the South. The AP deliberately repackaged Giuliani’s light-hearted shtick into a sexually-charged coming out party through phrasing such as “dressed up like a girl,” “cavorting about in women’s wear,” “gender-bending gags,” “seeing him in drag” and descriptions like this:

Giuliani’s first drag appearance, in 1997, featured a breathy Marilyn Monroe impression that was followed by various other female alter-egos over the years, including one that shared a scene with Donald Trump, who groped Giuliani and buried his head between the mayoral breasts.

The AP portrayed the occasions as a "gender-bending" lifestyle commitment instead of a guy in a dress joking around at special events. Giuliani makes no secret his support of certain social issues and is not ashamed of his “cross-dressing.”

Then the AP neatly buttonholed the questions concerning whether what is slyly portrayed as a bourgeoning alternative lifestyle “could damage his campaign” among conservatives and particularly Southerners. The secondary message is that Southerners and conservatives are homophobic and intolerant.

The AP used the "Hey, I'm just putting the facts out. I'm not responsible for how people interpret them," technique that is popular in the media and is often used to send a message without having to say it outright. It is a safety mechanism that allows them to make people understand a message without actually having to say it.

After over five paragraphs discussing his frilly frocks and electability, the AP finally just came out with part of it:

For conservatives who already are leery of backing Giuliani because of his support for abortion rights and other positions on social issues, the feminine clothing may also remind them of his support of gays while mayor — despite the fact that the majority of cross-dressers are not gay.

Still, a poison-pen mailer or e-mail could easily imply a connection, observers say.

“I’m imagining the negative ads — they could use this as sort of an oblique reference to all of those positions,” said Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard.

So, “a poison-pen mailer or e-mail could easily imply a connection.” Or an AP article. Condemning this article’s manipulation has nothing to with whether transvestitism is right or wrong; it is the implication that Giuliani dressed in women’s clothing for reasons other than to boost his image and laugh at himself. The AP was seemingly positive about Giuliani’s LGBT-friendly attitude, but adroitly insinuated a negative subtext while pondering the impact of the backward conservatives’ not-quite-named homophobia.