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Falling In and Out of Love

November 12, 2007

Nearly 30 years ago, Your Humble Servant imagined a future with Rupert Murdoch.

Covering the 1978 New York City newspaper strike for Newsday, I proved useful to him because I was the only game in town. He proved useful to me because he was Rupert Murdoch.

So we became chummy. We chatted. We telephoned. He permitted me to buy him a drink at The Bull and Bear in the Waldorf Astoria. We became so chummy that when the strike ended, he offered — and I accepted — the lofty-sounding position of Political and Investigative Editor of the New York Post.

The day I began, the Post’s editor, a brilliant but diabolical Brit, gave me a warning. “Rupert,” he said, “falls in and out love very quickly.” Sure enough, when I left the Post after only nine months [we were not on the same journalistic page, as they say] Mr. Murdoch had all but forgotten me.

Rudy Giuliani also falls in and out of love with his employees, although not quite as quickly as Rupert Murdoch.

First, there was his 29-year-old press secretary Cristyne Lategano. Although lacking journalistic experience, she was bright, attractive, energetic, hardworking and loyal.

At the height of her powers, many viewed her as Rudy’s most influential adviser. Rudy spent so much time with her that his wife, Donna Hanover, refused to appear in public with him whenever Cristyne was present.

Rudy’s political adviser David Garth advised Rudy to drop her. Instead, Rudy dropped Garth. His campaign manager and deputy mayor Peter Powers also warned Rudy about Cristyne. Rudy warned Powers never bring up the subject again. Powers, Rudy’s oldest friend, left the administration.

By my estimate, Rudy and Cristyne were an item from 1995 — the year he forced her former companion John Miller, then the spokesman for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, to resign — to 1998 when the Daily News described her as storming out of a restaurant in tears after the mayor screamed at her over breakfast.

Rudy then packed her off to a $150,000 job with the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau where she remained out of sight through the end of his administration.

Rudy also fell hard for the recently indicted Bernie Kerik. We all know Bernie was Rudy’s driver and bodyguard during his 1993 campaign. Few know that one of Bernie’s NYPD detective buddies Tibor Kerekes — whom Bernie later appointed Deputy Commissioner of Administration — served on Giuliani’s detail — i.e., as one of his bodyguards — at City Hall.

Part of Tibor’s job involved keeping Donna at bay — i.e, away from Cristyne. If things got hot, Bernie stepped in. Rudy loved Bernie for that. Donna despised him.

Rudy was so smitten with Bernie that in 1997 after First Deputy Tosano Simonetti retired, Rudy sought to appoint Bernie to replace him. Howard Safir, who had succeeded Bratton as police commissioner, nixed Bernie and appointed Pat Kelleher. People at Police Plaza believe this was the only time Safir ever stood up to Rudy.

Three years later, in August, 2000, Safir retired. Although Rudy had called him “the greatest police commissioner in the history of New York City,” he ignored Safir’s recommendation to appoint the 30-year veteran, Chief of Department Joe Dunne, to succeed him. He also ignored Safir’s continued warnings about Bernie.

So now we have two people warning Rudy about Bernie. Besides Safir, there was the late Commissioner of Investigations, Edward Kuriansky, who is believed to have specifically told Rudy about Bernie’s relationship with an outfit with alleged mob ties. That was the outfit that paid for the $165,000 renovation to Bernie’s Bronx apartment and to which Bernie tried to steer a city contract.

When last heard from, Rudy was still maintaining that despite his ethical and financial lapses Kerik was a good police commissioner. The indictment paints a different picture — one of a city official with his hand out who exploited 9/11 for his own enrichment.

While Corrections Commissioner, he allegedly accepted those freebie apartment renovations. While police commissioner, he lied about this on his taxes and on his financial disclosure forms with the city.

The indictment also alleges that Kerik failed to report as income $75,000 he received from his book publisher for writing the introduction to a book about 9/11.The proceeds were supposed to go to charity.

The indictment further alleges that Kerik failed to report as income $236,000 in rent for a Manhattan apartment that was paid by a Manhattan developer. This appears to be another example of Kerik’s exploiting 9/11. The developer had generously and anonymously come forward to donate money to the families of the 23 officers who died in the World Trade Center attack.

“Moral relativism is not an appropriate yardstick for our pubic officials,” Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Criminal Division in New York David Cardona said at Kerik’s indictment last week in White Plains. “The only acceptable level of corruption in a trusted government official is zero.”

Teddy Roosevelt, New York’s Police commissioner in the 1890s, Cardona continued, “was the embodiment of rectitude: a man who held himself to a higher standard than he expected from others. A century apart, Teddy Roosevelt and Bernie Kerik held the same job. There the similarity ends.”

Before Rudy opens his mouth again about leadership, he may want to read some history.

End of the Road. A unanimous New Jersey state appellate panel has upheld the convictions of former NYPD Deputy commissioner Garry McCarthy and his wife Regina over what is surely the most expensive parking ticket in the history of the automobile.

The fighting McCarthys were arrested in 2005 after they argued with the Palisades Parkway Police, who had ticketed their daughter Kyla for parking in a handicapped zone. McCarthy was subsequently appointed to head the Newark police department and appears to be doing as much as a human being can to fight crime in what seems a no-win situation.

The Khun Sa Passes. Your Humble Servant could not let the passing of the Asian drug lord Khun Sa go unnoticed. The Khun Sa died at age 73, a long life for a drug king pin. In the end, he surrendered to authorities in Myanmar, not to Howard Safir.

In 1998, in yet another low point as police commissioner, Safir taunted Bill Bratton as “some airport cop from Boston,” while boasting that he, Safir, a former federal marshal, had pursued the Khun Sa.

Bratton responded: “I wasn’t dealing on the international scene, flying around the world, chasing Khun Sa, who, I believe was never caught. I can understand Howard’s frustration. Like Rodney Dangerfield, he doesn’t get any respect."

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt