One Police Plaza

How Ray Kelly Rejected the Top FBI Job

March 5, 2007

Do Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s myth-makers know no bounds? His biographical highlights now appear on the free, on-line “people’s” encyclopedia, known as Wikipedia.

Here’s what the Wikipedia entry said of him when this reporter checked last month.

“Raymond Walter Kelly [born Sept. 4, 1941] is the current Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and the first person to hold the post for two non-consecutive tenures. Kelly spent 31 years in the NYPD, serving in 25 different commands and as Police Commissioner from 1992-1994 and 2002-present. He is the only person to date to hold every rank in the NYPD.”

O.K. So far, so good. But then came this:

“He was the original choice for FBI Director after Bill Clinton was elected. He turned it down to remain Commissioner of the NYPD, and Louis Freeh got the FBI post.”

Whoah! Did Your Humble Servant miss that story? Did every journalist in the country miss it? How could this be? All the more remarkable in that when Kelly did join the Clinton administration after Mayor Rudy Giuliani fired him in January 1994, it was in a secondary posting as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

So we called Wikipedia’s communications director Sandra Ordonez to try and sort this out. Ordonez — whose step-father, Gershon Lopez, happens to be a retired Bronx homicide detective — said each entry on Wikipedia is “collaboratively written,” submitted by a “volunteer” or many volunteers — i.e., anyone in the world.

She then e-mailed an article from the New York Times to show what had appeared in the media about Kelly and the FBI.

Sure enough, the article — published without a byline on May 20, 1993 — was headlined, “Kelly Said to Be Pick As Director of F.B.I.”

But that’s not quite what the article said.

“The New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly,” it began, “has been mentioned as a possible replacement for William S. Sessions as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clinton officials said yesterday.

“The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Kelly’s name had come up in conversations between the White House and the Justice Department, as have at least two other names, those of Louis J. Freeh, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York and Richard G. Stearns, a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge.

“Mr. Kelly, through a spokeswoman, said yesterday that he could not ‘confirm or deny’ whether he had been contacted.

“’He said that he is committed to the department and to New York and that he has the best job in law enforcement,’ said Suzanne Trazoff, deputy commissioner for public information. …”

So, according to the Times article, Kelly was not the “original choice” for FBI director but one of at least three people considered for the job. Nowhere does the article say Kelly turned down the job.

O.K, so who was the “volunteer” who submitted the Kelly entry to Wikipedia?

Ordonez said it is virtually impossible to determine this because there are scores of entries about Kelly, written at different times. Some of the “volunteers” — i.e. the writers — are not registered with Wikipedia, she added, explaining that it’s next to impossible to track them because they go by their user names, not their actual identity.

Kelly’s principle myth-maker — Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Paul Browne, known as “Mr. Truth,” — did not return a phone message left at his office last week.

When asked about Kelly’s biographical claim vis-a-vis the FBI, Ordonez said readers are free to write in to correct errors.

“The ideal would be for your readers to correct the entry and also source it,” she said, noting that properly sourced material is never deleted at Wikipedia. None of the Kelly bio, she added, was sourced. “I would encourage readers to be bold, to source and change the article.”

So is there anything else inaccurate in the Kelly bio on Wikepedia?

What about Browne’s often-made claim, which under the Wikipedia heading “Policing” reads: “Kelly graduated first in his class from the New York City Police Academy and actually passed the sergeant’s test before he even spent a day on the beat?”

Perhaps someday Browne will provide some further amplification, including Kelly’s transcript from the Police Academy.

Our inquiry did move the Wikipedia mountain, but only slightly. Ordonez said Wikipedia had changed the section about Kelly and the FBI.

But myths die hard. The new entry reads: “After his handling of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, he was mentioned as a possible candidate for FBI Director. After turning down the position, Louis Freeh was appointed.”

The Blind Optimist.
Only the Daily News’s political columnist Michael Goodwin could spot something positive for Rudy Giuliani in Giuliani’s now-public estrangement from his children.

Giuliani’s son Andrew told Times reporter Russ Buettner that the cause of their estrangement [Rudy did not attend Andrew’s high school graduation] is Rudy’s third wife, Judith Nathan. They married after Rudy paraded her around the city while married to Andrew’s mother, Donna Hanover.

Now 21-years-old and a sophomore at Duke University, where he is on the golf team, Andrew added that he won’t be campaigning with his dad: too busy with golf.

The Times story also suggested that Giuliani was estranged from his 18-year-old daughter Caroline. [According to the Daily News, he only learned Caroline planned to attend Harvard after reading in the newspaper.]

Sounds like a bleak family portrait of our leading presidential candidate, right? Not to Goodwin.

“Call me an optimist,” he writes, suggesting that Andrew’s revelations may somehow help Rudy, noting that Andrew added that, after not speaking for a year or so, he and Rudy were attempting to reconcile — albeit not very satisfactorily.

“The fact that the children and their father are working toward reconciliation could reassure many voters that the former mayor is trying to fix the bonds he broke,” Goodwin writes.

Mike, be serious. First, there’s no indication from the Times article that Rudy and Caroline are reconciling. Second, isn’t a more plausible assessment that Rudy’s own flesh and blood wants voters to know that our leading presidential candidate is a flop as a dad?

And to think, we haven’t even heard from Caroline.

Finally, over at the Post, there is only silence over Giuliani’s family troubles. You can bet that if it were Hillary and Chelsea, Mr. Murdoch would have that all across Page One.