Mayor Bill de Blasio today slammed what he called “pitiful” comments from former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who last night said at a private dinner that President Barack Obama “doesn’t love America.”
“I find it a cheap political trick for Rudy Giuliani to question our president’s love of his country. That is stooping very, very—low even for him,” Mr. de Blasio said after an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn.
Mr. Giuliani, meanwhile, told the Observer his comments were simply reiterating something he’s said over the last four years about Mr. Obama.
“It is my opinion, as an American citizen, that our president does not emphasize enough his love of America. He emphasizes his criticisms of America, which was created an impression that he doesn’t love America enough—I don’t mean that as a psychological analysis,” Mr. Giuliani said in a telephone interview.
Last night at a private dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a 2016 GOP presidential contender, Mr. Giuliani blamed Mr. Obama lukewarm love for the country on his upbringing.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Mr. Giuliani said during the dinner according to Politico. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Mr. de Blasio, who has not been shy about criticizing Mr. Giuliani, blasted those remarks.
“Rudy Giuliani decided to attack the president’s love of his own country, his patriotism, his devotion to the United States of America—it’s absolutely, I think it’s pitiful. I think it’s unfair for anyone to question our president’s patriotism. The president has served with great distinction,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Some have characterized Mr. Giuliani’s comments about the way Mr. Obama was “brought up” as racially charged—but the former mayor said today that he was speaking about Mr. Obama’s “political education,” and noted the president was raised by his mother, who was white.
“You should be able to comment about the president of the United States without being accused of racism when you disagree with him,” Mr. Giuliani told the Observer.
The former mayor’s comments were in response to a question about what he’d like to see in future presidential candidates, he said, adding he thought the country wanted “someone to love them again.”
“What’s good about us is the headline, and what’s bad about us is the footnotes, and we try to correct the footnotes all the time. And I want a president who looks at us this way,” Mr. Giuliani said.
In response to a separate question, Mr. Giuliani last night also criticized the president for what he said was an inability to criticize Islam for its role in terror groups like ISIS: “What’s wrong with this man that he can’t stand up and say there’s a part of Islam that’s sick?”
Mr. de Blasio also took issue with those remarks today, saying a “very small number of people” who use the religion to perpetuate violence.
“It does not have anything to do with the message of a religion that the other 1.5 or 1.6 billion people practice peacefully,” Mr. de Blasio said.
But Mr. Giuliani said today that the country cannot win a “war of ideas” without clearly identifying its enemies, and said he did not imply that all Muslims share the views of ISIS.
“I’ve always said it’s just the opposite. I believe the failure to use the words extremist violent Muslim fundamentalist is lumping all Muslims together,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he’d read the Quran and “just re-read part of it today.”
He compared it to using the word “mafia” when he was a prosecutor.
“I was not talking about the vast majority of Italian-Americans, but how would I communicate what I was trying to say if I didn’t use the word mafia?” he asked. “What am I gonna call these people when they call themselves the Islamic State? Am I gonna call them the Lutheran State?”
Mr. de Blasio also took aim at today at Mr. Walker, saying the governor ought to “disassociate himself immediately” from Mr. Giuliani’s remarks.
“Gov. Walker has an opportunity to decide who he is and what he stands for, and so far he’s been absolutely silent—which must mean he wants to stoop as low as Mr. Giuliani,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Mr. Walker discussed the former mayor’s comments this morning on CNBC, according to the Huffington Post.
“The mayor can speak for himself, I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not,” Mr. Walker said. “I tell you I love America and there are people, Democrat, Republican, Independent, anywhere in between, who love this country. I think we should talk about ways in which we love this country.”