There came a moment when Michael Bromwich began to think this was not the Rudolph Giuliani he had worked with to prosecute mobsters and Wall Street bandits.
On the other hand, Al Sharpton saw a clear connection between the man who abetted Donald Trump’s effort to overthrow the 2020 election and the Rudolph Giuliani who said that his loss to David Dinkins in 1989 was tainted by voter fraud.
These seemingly contradictory – or maybe just complicated – insights are at the core of a four-part television documentary that revolves around a question posed three years ago by Ken Frydman and that many New Yorkers have been asking since: “What Happened to Rudy Giuliani?”
That was the headline of Frydman’s 2019 New York Times OpEd. “The man I worked for in 1993 is not the man who now lies for Donald Trump,” wrote Frydman, a West Side PR strategist, who had been Giuliani’s communications director in his second campaign against David Dinkins. The one Giuliani won.
Democrats were building their case at that time to impeach Trump for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Giuliani wasn’t just Trump’s defender. His post 9/11 consulting business with Ukraine had created the whole situation.
But Frydman said he was compelled to write his op-ed when Giuliani said he did not care about his legacy, because he’d be dead. “He may not care, but anyone who worked on his winning campaigns in 1993 and 1997 or in City Hall during his two terms as mayor does care about his legacy — and theirs,” Frydman wrote.
Giuliani Role in Trump Trainwreck
It happened that John Marks, a filmmaker, had been pursuing the same question with CNN of what happened to Giuliani. So they invited Frydman to join them as consulting producer. The result is the most comprehensive film examination yet of the rise and strange fall of Giuliani, and also of the integral role Giuliani played in the Trump train wreck.
For many there is now an indelible, comical, image of Giuliani with black hair dye running down the side of his face as he denies the 2020 election results. For Americans younger or further from the Great City, that may be their only image, Marks notes.
Filmmaker Seeks Full Picture
“Rather than there just being this caricature out there, that he’s helping to create,” Marks said. “I wanted a full picture of this fascinating public figure.”
“Giuliani: What Happened to America’s Mayor?” does not offer a simple answer.
“I resisted the idea we were going to come up with a single, one-note understanding of how this all happened,” Marks explained.
So there are those like Bromwich, who worked with Giuliani at the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, who can’t seem to reconcile the Giuliani who brilliantly prosecuted the Mob and Inside traders with the one who strayed so far from facts and truth in defense of Trump.
“I do recall thinking at some point as things went along that this was not the person I knew,” Bromwich said, “Many of the things that he was doing were just baffling...he’s too smart to believe some of the nonsense that he’s been spouting.”
But others, like Sharpton, saw a clear pattern in the Giuliani who fired up cops at a rally outside Dave Dinkins’ City Hall and the one who later told Trump supporters there would be “trial by combat” to stop the steal of the 2020 election.
“When you see him being one of the speakers leading into January 6,” said Sharpton. “look at the footage of the police riot when Dave Dinkins was mayor. That’s who Rudy was. He’s just not able to finesse it like he used to. But that’s Rudy.”
“It just made sense to acknowledge the difference” in how people who know Giuliani perceive what happened to him, Marks said.
Giuliani refused to cooperate with the film, although substantial parts of it actually remember his success as a prosecutor and as the voice of New York’s resilience after the World Trade Center was destroyed. While much of the journalism around Donald Trump is suffused with anger and outrage, Marks’ film is filled with sorrow for the loss of that racket busting prosecutor and the hero of 9/11.
“For somebody who once championed the rule of law and tried his cases in court,” said Bromwich, “for him to be the instrument of essentially undermining the system of law and having people lose faith in our democracy, is a horrible way to end your career.”
Even Sharpton Says He’s Surprised
Sharpton says it is beyond even him, a fervent critic, to have predicted how Giuliani has ended up.
“Here is a man now who got there with divisiveness and polarizing and by some luck was able to resurrect himself to being the nation’s mayor. Got a second chance. And then erodes it all. It is almost unthinkable. At the end of the day, Rudy Giuliani was not brought down by those of us who opposed him. He was not brought down by his critics. Rudy Giuliani was brought down by Rudy Giuliani.”
The four part series debuts Jan. 8 at 9pm on CNN.
“I resisted the idea we were going to come up with a single, one-note understanding of how this all happened.” Filmmaker John Marks