Media continue to falsely suggest that Giuliani has been consistent on public funding of abortion

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

Several news outlets and media figures have continued to portray former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) recent comments on public funding for abortion as "honest" and consistent with his previous statements on the issue. Among them are Politico chief political writer Mike Allen, a Washington Post editorial, National Public Radio senior national correspondent Juan Williams, and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. However, as Media Matters for America has noted, Giuliani and his campaign have made conflicting statements about his position on public funding for abortion.

In an interview on the April 4 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Giuliani stated that he supports "public funding" of abortions if its denial "would deprive someone of a constitutional right" to an abortion. However, his campaign has stated that Giuliani "respects" the Hyde Amendment, the law that prohibits federal funding for most abortions, and that Giuliani would not work to change it.

Additionally, on the April 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume asserted that Giuliani's position that abortion is "a constitutional right," as host Chris Wallace put it, was not "incompatible, in any sense, with the idea of appointing strict-constructionist judges." Indeed, Giuliani said on April 4 that "a strict constructionist judge can come to either conclusion about Roe against Wade." However, Hume did not note that Giuliani's campaign has stated that his models for judicial appointments include Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, both of whom have stated that Roe v. Wade should be overruled.

Furthermore, on the February 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity asked Giuliani, "Where does Rudy Giuliani stand on abortion?" Giuliani responded by saying that he "believe[s] in a woman's right to choose," but then encouraged "conservatives" to find similarities in "the way we think," specifically on "the appointment of judges." When asked about Scalia, Giuliani replied that he is "somebody I consider to be a really great judge. ... I do think you have sort of a general philosophical approach that you want from a justice, and I think a strict constructionist would be probably the way I'd describe it."

HANNITY: Where does Rudy Giuliani stand on abortion? And do you think Roe v. Wade is good law, bad law?

GIULIANI: Where I stand on abortion is, I oppose it. I don't like it. I hate it. I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against.

However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that, and I think ultimately you have to leave that to a disagreement of conscience, and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes.

So what I do say to conservatives -- because, then, you know, you want to look at, "Well, OK, what can we look to that is similar to what the way we think?" I think the appointment of judges that I would make would be very similar to, if not exactly the same as, the last two judges that were appointed.

[...]

HANNITY: So you would look for a Scalia, a [Supreme Court Chief Justice John] Roberts, an [Supreme Court Justice Samuel] Alito?

GIULIANI: Scalia is another former colleague of mine and somebody I consider to be a really great judge. I mean, that would be -- you're never going to get somebody exactly the same. You're never -- and I don't think you have a litmus test. But I do think you have sort of a general philosophical approach that you want from a justice, and I think a strict constructionist would be probably the way I'd describe it.

Similarly, Giuliani campaign policy director Bill Simon Jr. emphasized Giuliani's preference for "strict-constructionist judges" in a letter to the editor of the National Review. Simon was writing in response to a National Review editorial that criticized Giuliani's position on public funding for abortion:

Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly said that he will not seek to change current law as described in the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases involving rape or incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake. And, given the opportunity, a President Giuliani would appoint strict-constructionist judges who will follow in the philosophical footsteps of Justices Thomas, Alito, and Scalia, and Chief Justice Roberts.

Scalia and Thomas have both stated that they believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. In an opinion joined by Scalia, Thomas wrote that the decision in Roe was "grievously wrong." Roberts and Alito, both appointees of President George W. Bush, have not yet written or joined any Supreme Court opinions discussing whether Roe was correctly decided. But, as Media Matters has noted, Bush has reportedly named Scalia as his model for appointing Supreme Court justices.

In an April 9 Politico article, Allen wrote that Giuliani's April 4 comments on public funding "might have enhanced his ... reputation for straight talk." And an April 10 Washington Post editorial said that "Giuliani's candor could be ... problematic" as he runs for president but that "we suspect that in the end voters will have more respect for forthright politicians with whom they disagree." Similarly, on Fox News Sunday, Liasson claimed that Giuliani is "becoming more and more himself" by "announcing that he's still for publicly funded abortions, which he's always been for." Wallace stated that Giuliani had "kind of finessed the issue" by claiming that he would appoint "strict constructionists," and then "[t]his week ... talking about abortion again as a constitutional right." Williams responded: "I think [Giuliani's] honest."

From the April 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

LIASSON: I think what's interesting is, at the same time he [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R)] was getting all bollixed up about how many bunny rabbits he's shot, you have got Rudy Giuliani, who is becoming more and more himself, actually, announcing that he's still for publicly funded abortions, which he's always been for. He's not -- and his view of strict-constructionist judges does not seem to be, for him, code for overturning Roe v. Wade.

[crosstalk]

KRISTOL: Rudy doesn't shoot bunny rabbits.

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait. Let me --

KRISTOL: Rudy personally strangles them. Because Rudy is a tough guy.

WALLACE: Let me put this up -- let me put this up on -- because we have this clip from Rudy Giuliani this week. Let's run it.

GIULIANI [video clip]: I'm against abortion. I hate it. I wish there never was an abortion, and I would counsel a woman to have an adoption instead of an abortion, but ultimately I believe it's an individual right.

WALLACE: Juan, I must say I was surprised by that, because it seemed to me that Giuliani had kind of finessed the issue by saying, "Well, you know, I believe what I believe, but I'm going to appoint strict constructionists to the court." This week, he started talking about abortion again as a constitutional right.

WILLIAMS: Well -- and I think he's honest and says, "You know, we might have differences here, but let's look at common ground." As compared to Romney. Romney is a guy -- and I pick up on what Mara was saying -- Romney's a guy who was tough as governor of Massachusetts on assault weapons and is joining the NRA is a recent move.

This is all, it seems to me, a rush over to the right for the primaries. And when it comes to abortion, similarly, it was Romney who said, you know, he supported a woman's right to choose, but now he's saying, "Oh, no. Can't do it." He's going to overturn Roe if he becomes president.

WALLACE: Brit, you get the final word on this.

HUME: Well, look. Giuliani on abortion -- I don't think there's anything particularly novel about what he said there. I think that's part of the same formulation he's used any number of times.

It is not incompatible, in any sense, with the idea of appointing strict-constructionist judges. And he was asked about that, of course, and did that mean a judge who would overturn Roe versus Wade? He said, "Well, you wouldn't know," and that independent-minded judges might respect the doctrine of stare decisis, which is that those opinions should be left standing.

From Simon's letter, published by National Review Online on April 9:

I believe that your editorial "Life Lessons for Rudy" was written in good faith, but it ignored the National Review Online article of January 22 titled "Giuliani's Choices." Abortions declined by 16.8 percent in New York City during the Giuliani administration, according to the Center for Disease Control. And University of Alabama political scientist Michael New told your publication, "The decline in abortions in New York City under Giuliani was greater than the national decline." Mayor Giuliani's success in reducing abortions in New York City was further examined in your publication's article "Rudy's Right Record" on March 20.

Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly said that he will not seek to change current law as described in the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases involving rape or incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake. And, given the opportunity, a President Giuliani would appoint strict-constructionist judges who will follow in the philosophical footsteps of Justices Thomas, Alito, and Scalia, and Chief Justice Roberts.

As a pro-life conservative, I may not agree with Rudy on every detail of every issue. But I respect his beliefs -- as he respects mine -- and I cannot argue with his results.

From an April 9 article in The Politico:

The former New York mayor might have enhanced his own reputation for straight talk, but it could have come at the cost of conservative primary voters when he answered "yes" to CNN's Dana Bash when asked if he still favors public funding for some abortions. Aides say he intended to make it clear that he doesn't plan to pander to the party's right wing, but even some GOP moderates were aghast. Now, Giuliani's more precise -- and more political -- message is that he favors the status quo and wouldn't try to change current law. And he will say he doesn't think abortion should be criminalized.

Giuliani, who got an effusive reception at the conservative Club for Growth late last month, hopes to transcend the stumble over abortion by emphasizing economic issues, combined with a claim that he is "the true fiscal conservative in the race." He will amplify his calls for tax simplification and elimination of the inheritance tax, which he and other Republicans call the "death tax." Previewing Giuliani's message, an aide says: "He took a city with out-of-control spending, reined it in and lowered taxes 23 times. He doesn't just talk about these things. He actually did it."

From the April 10 Washington Post editorial:

Dealing with a subject even more volatile than gun control, Mr. Giuliani said that he is personally opposed to abortion but that he continues to believe the decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy should be up to the individual woman. "Ultimately I believe it's an individual right and a woman should make that choice," Mr. Giuliani said in South Carolina, not the most hospitable venue for abortion rights supporters.

Not only that, Mr. Giuliani reiterated his support for public funding of abortion in some circumstances. "Ultimately, it's a constitutional right, and therefore if it's a constitutional right, ultimately, even if you do it on a state-by-state basis, you have to make sure people are protected," Mr. Giuliani told CNN.

In the context of Republican Party politics, Mr. Giuliani's candor could be as problematic as Mr. Romney's positioning. But we suspect that in the end voters will have more respect for forthright politicians with whom they disagree than for ones who seem as willing as Mr. Romney to mold their political personae to the needs of the moment.

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