On this weekend’s edition of America’s Sunday shows, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was selected to be GOP nominee Donald Trump’s principal defender in the matter of the reality show star’s recorded remarks in support of sexually assaulting women.
On “Meet the Press,” Giuliani was greeted by Chuck Todd, who from the outset seemed to be unwilling to grant any charity on the matter, as he rebuffed the former mayor’s attempts at social niceties.
RUDY GIULIANI: How are you, Chuck?
CHUCK TODD: Back-to-back here, I want you to address ―
GIULIANI: Thank you. How are you, Chuck?
TODD: I’m OK.
It was an inauspicious start to an interview that quickly became contentious, with Todd singling out Giuliani as the only person who seemed to want to show his face on Trump’s behalf.
TODD: Well, let me ask you this, though. Kellyanne Conway was supposed to come on this show defending Donald Trump. Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, was supposed to go on a couple other shows. They all pulled out. Only you are out defending Donald Trump. Are you the only one in the campaign that was willing to publicly defend him?
GIULIANI: No, absolutely not. I was with Kellyanne all day yesterday, she could just as easily have been on as me. And the same thing is true with Chris.
Giuliani maintained that Trump felt “terrible” about the remarks he made, but simultaneously attempted to wave them away, presenting the argument that there was a time in which Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks were perfectly aboveboard. “It was 10 or 12 years ago. He wasn’t at that time, you know, running for office, he wasn’t thinking of office,” Giuliani said.
Todd remained skeptical: “He didn’t apologize for attacking a Gold Star family, he didn’t apologize to questioning the nature of a federal judge just because of his ethnicity. Why did he choose to apologize for this?”
Giuliani’s response was essentially, Trump and his family weren’t personally embarrassed by those attacks.
GIULIANI: Well, I think in this case, we’re talking about his personal behavior and his statements that are absolutely wrong. And I think when he heard them, he was shocked. I’m not going to say that he didn’t remember them, but they probably weren’t at the top of his mind. And when he was confronted with it, he was pretty darn shocked that he had said such terrible things and he feels terrible about it. He feels terrible for his family and how embarrassing it is for them; he feels terrible from his own point of view. But he also realizes he has a responsibility. And I think the last 14 months have driven that into him.
Todd disagreed, insisting that there was a “pattern” of Trump showing himself to be fairly consistent in his misogynist grotesqueries. The host underscored this by playing a portion of an interview that Trump gave to Howard Stern, in which Trump discussed how one of the perks of running a beauty pageant was the ability to “get away with things” like intruding on the contestants while they were undressed, and passing it off as “inspecting.”
Things got pretty contentious between the two men from there:
TODD: Wait, let [me] ask you this, Mr. Mayor, why is the idea of not running, “Well, he wasn’t running for president, so it’s OK to be a misogynist.” He wasn’t running for president, so it’s OK to make unwanted sexual advances?
GIULIANI: Chuck, Chuck, I’m not saying it was the right thing to do. I’m saying that, for example, when I was the mayor of New York and I went on the “Howard Stern Show,” I made sure that we didn’t fool around, we didn’t tell jokes, we didn’t say that things, you know, would shock people. On that show, a lot of things are said that aren’t true, you just say them because they’re funny. I’m a good friend of Howard Stern’s and I really like him a lot, but every time I was on his show, my people, my mayor’s people, handled it so that we never talked about things like that. It’s not right to say it, whether you’re a politician or not, now ―
TODD: It’s not saying it, Mr. Mayor, it’s doing it. He’s bragging about making unwanted sexual advances.
GIULIANI: It’s wrong. It is wrong.
TODD: You’re saying that the words are wrong. How about the actions?
GIULIANI: Well, the actions would be even worse if they were actions. Talk and action are two different things.
TODD: Wait a minute, New York Times, Temple Taggart was [a] 21-year-old beauty contestant when she said Mr. Trump kissed her on the lips without invitation at a pageant event. It was an unwanted advance, she has turned it over in her head for years. Watching him relive his sexual aggressions on this video, she said in an interview on Saturday, “made me feel a lot better,” she said. It was like, “Thank you, now no one can say I made this up.” You were just implying this stuff was made up.
GIULIANI: I’m not implying it was made up. I said we’re talking about things that he was talking about. I don’t know how much he was exaggerating, I don’t know how much is true. I certainly don’t know the details of it. But I do know that this is unfortunately the kind of talk that goes on among a lot of people and they shouldn’t talk about this. This is wrong. He realizes that, he understands it now. He’s running for president, he realizes that he’s got the weight and the responsibility of all these people on his shoulder and this is something he’s not going to do in the future. And he’s very apologetic about it and wants to move onto what is going to be really important 30 days from now.
But that was perhaps the most interesting thing about this interview: Giuliani made numerous attempts to change the subject, but Todd wouldn’t let him pivot off the topic, greeting Giuliani’s efforts with a mix of terse responses and pointed objections:
GIULIANI: You know, he is going to lower taxes, she’s going to raise taxes. He’s going to add to our military, she’s going to decrease our military. He’s going to support the police at a time in which we’ve had the biggest increase in crime in the last 41 years. He’s going to take on radical Islamic terrorism. And he’s not, one thing he’s not is what came across in WikiLeaks, and that is two people.
GIULIANI: Hillary Clinton actually specifically described that she’s two different people, to the financial people who were giving her millions of dollars, she’s on their side and she wants to be a big part of the government.
GIULIANI: But she tells them she has to pretend to everybody else that she isn’t.
TODD: If you believe that Hillary Clinton says one thing in private and that means what she really is is what she is in private, should we assume what Donald Trump did in that “Access Hollywood” buzz is really what Donald Trump is like in private? I mean, that’s what you’re implying here with Hillary Clinton.
GIULIANI: You know, Chuck, the reality is that in both cases, both people have things in their personal lives that maybe if they could redo it, they would do it differently. And the reality is that this is a situation in which neither side should throw stones because both sides have sinned. So how about we put that behind us and we start talking about who’s going to lower taxes? Who is going to say the word “radical Islamic terrorism” so we can finally defeat them? And who is going to best be able to support the police so this largest increase in crime in 41 years doesn’t start to become a trend. Is it going to be Donald Trump, with his policies ―
GIULIANI: ― or Hillary Clinton, who has had a chance. She’s been part of our political fabric for 30 years and 70 percent of this country thinks we’re moving in the wrong direction. She’s one of the reasons for it.
TODD: Mr. Mayor, last question, has he ruled out bringing up Bill Clinton’s personal life at tonight’s debate?
GIULIANI: I believe he will not bring up Bill Clinton’s personal life.
Indeed, tonight’s debate may be Trump’s only opportunity to change this subject at all.