Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Any truce the New York press might have had with Mayor Rudy Giuliani since he announced last week that he has prostate cancer has quickly collapsed, with the local press corps putting the state of the mayor’s marriage under scrutiny yet again.
The latest round began Tuesday, when New York Daily News gossip columnist Mitchell Fink ran an item titled “Rudy & Friend Dine & Dine.” Giuliani, Fink wrote, “hasn’t let the diagnosis of prostate cancer slow him down.” The mayor was spotted twice over the weekend dining out with an unnamed “friend,” wrote Fink, who did not explicitly reveal the gender of Giuliani’s dining companion until the end of the item: “One restaurant staffer opined that the mayor was with his wife,” Fink wrote, “but shown a picture of Donna Hanover, he said it wasn’t her.”
Playing a frantic game of catch-up, the next day’s New York Post published a pair of undated surveillance-style photographs of Giuliani’s female dining companion coming out of yet another restaurant. One of the photographs — which were accompanied by the headline “Rudy’s mystery brunch pal is Upper East Side divorcie” — featured Giuliani a few feet away from the woman, whom the Post identified as Judith Nathan.
Gossip that the mayor has a new companion has been circulating among journalists for weeks. Indeed, the Post’s photographs were actually snapped at least 11 days before they were published. A source at the Post said that the newspaper heard Giuliani had been spotted on Saturdays eating brunch at a particular restaurant near Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s residence, and dispatched a photographer to capture the duo.
The Post was unable to get them on the first try, but returned a week later and succeeded. The source believes the photos were taken on April 22, but might have been shot April 15.
The photos weren’t published immediately. “Basically, we didn’t know how to phrase it,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “We can’t say ‘It’s his girlfriend.’ So we were just kind of sitting on it. Then we just about decided to go with it and do it as ‘Spotted around town — who is this?’ and then he got prostate cancer.”
“Then it was ‘Shit, what do we do now?’” he said.
Then the Daily News published its item Tuesday, and it was open season on the mayor.
Speculation about the state of Giuliani’s marriage — and possible extramarital affairs — has run rampant for years in New York. It reached a crescendo in mid-1997 when a Vanity Fair article implied he had an affair with his then-communications director, Cristyne Lategano. That article also took the city’s press corps to task for its alleged inadequate coverage of the mayor’s marriage, a criticism that the tabloids are eager to avoid this time.
The subject resurfaced recently when Hanover, the mayor’s apparently estranged wife, announced that she would appear in the play “The Vagina Monologues,” whose playwright has been sharply critical of Giuliani. Hanover announced Monday that she would withdraw from the performance because of “personal family circumstances.”
Asked Wednesday at his press briefing about the woman in the Post’s photographs, Giuliani responded: “She’s a good friend. A very good friend. And beyond that, you can ask me questions and that’s exactly what I’m going to say.”
The Associated Press, which also identified the woman as Nathan, reported that she lives near Gracie Mansion. Asked if he was angry about the coverage, Giuliani said he was a public figure, so he expects extra media scrutiny. However, he added: “I’m annoyed because I think private people should be left alone … She and her family are entitled to privacy.”
This latest spate of stories once again raises questions about the legitimacy of such reporting. Tom Goldstein, the dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, said he had not read the News’ or the Post’s articles. “But,” he said, “my general view is: Leave the guy alone. And let the pendulum swing away from overly intrusive coverage of the private lives of public officials.”
Neither Daily News editor in chief Edward Kosner nor Post editor Xana Antunes immediately returned messages left yesterday evening.
“This is the kind of thing that nobody wants to be the first in the pool on,” said the Post source, “but once someone gets their toe wet, then everyone else dives in.”
Jesse Drucker covers politics for Salon from New York. More Jesse Drucker.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)