Rudy's favorite smear: You're nuts!

But what does his penchant for psychobabble tell us about the mayor's own mental health?

By Anna Holmes
March 22, 2000 2:32PM (UTC)
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When New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani accused Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday of
"projection," he exposed a penchant for
psychobabble that he indulges in with surprising regularity.

Clinton had claimed the mayor
racially polarized the city in the wake
of the shooting of
Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man
killed March 16, by, among other
reasons, releasing the records of
Dorismonds criminal history. But
instead of
simply rebuffing or countering Clinton's
remarks, Giuliani lashed back with Psych
101-speak. "There's a process called
projection in psychology," he said at a
news briefing. "It means accusing
someone of what you're doing. That is
precisely what Mrs. Clinton is doing."


During his two terms as mayor, Giuliani
has exhibited a nasty
preoccupation with the mental health of
others, examples of which we compiled
(see "Rudys case history," below).
According to Deborah Tannen, a
linguistics professor at Georgetown and
author of "The Argument
Culture," Giulianis "specific strategy
of accusing the attacker of
psychological problems, that
pathologizing of the attacker, seems
somewhat, um, original of him." She also
calls it inappropriate for a politician.
"He's not in a position to
truly evaluate the psychological states
of the people he's talking about,"
Tannen says. "Secondly, it shifts the
level of debate to a level that's hard
to respond to. When he's talking about a
psychological trait called transference
or projection,
how do you respond to

But what do Giulianis armchair
evaluations say about him? "I think he
needs therapy," says Dr. Carole
Lieberman, a Beverly Hills-based
psychiatrist. "Or if he is already in
it, I
would think it's time for some
medication." Lieberman suggests that
Giuliani's outbursts might be caused by
his questioning of his own sanity.
"People who feel vulnerable
psychologically, who unconsciously have
questions about their own sanity, are
quicker to question the sanity of

Which begs the question: Is Rudy on the
couch himself?


I called Sunny Mindel, the mayor's press
secretary. "What?" she screeched when I
asked if the mayor was in therapy.
"You're doing an item?" Of sorts, I
said, and repeated the question. "He
reads a real lot," she said evenly. So,
that means he's not in
therapy? "He reads a lot," she said,
and hung up.

Perhaps a look at his own case history
can shed some light:

Giuliani in response to Judge Nina
Gershon when she sided against New
York after Giuliani sought to pull
funding from the Brooklyn Museum over
its controversial "Sensation" exhibit
(November 1999):


"The judge is totally out of control.
She's lost all reason."

Giuliani on the three anti-Ku Klux Klan
members who posed as real Klan members
to get near the Klan, which was
demonstrating in New York (October

"I mean, what kind of a perverted
human being wants to pretend to be a
Klan member? You go find that person
for me and I can find a serious problem
that they have. You go find somebody
who wants to go around pretending to be
a Klan member, and I can go find a
candidate for some kind of serious
rehabilitation of some kind."


Giuliani about the "Sensation" exhibit
(October 1999):

"I don't want any money coming out of
my pocket to pay for this kind of sick
demonstration of clear psychological
problems. This should happen in a
psychiatric hospital, not in a
[city-funded] museum."



"I am adult enough, sensible enough
and educated enough to look at this and
say, 'These are displays of significant
psychological problems that should take
place some place else other than in a
museum for children.'"

Giuliani after a caller to his radio
show disagreed about
Giuliani's opposition to "Sensation"
(October 1999):

"Take some Valium!"


Giuliani to activist Christopher
Brodeur, who was angry that Giuliani had
ridiculed him and his ideas in the past
(September 1999):

"Get off the phone you crazy

Giuliani talking about Brodeur
(September 1999):

"I'm convinced there is something
seriously wrong with him.
Because a normal person doesn't do this.
You don't start harassing somebody on
the telephone and get involved in this
kind of sick, compulsive behavior."


Giuliani on people in New York who don't
clean up after their dogs (August 1999):

[They have] "a whole host of other
problems that play out in their

Giuliani on Brooklyn Borough President
Howard Golden opposing the construction
of a minor league baseball stadium (August 1999):

"Can you believe the borough
president of Brooklyn is opposing it?
Can you
believe it? You've got to get your head
examined, right? Call him and tell him
to get his head examined."


Giuliani commenting on an offer
Consolidated Edison made to victims of
spoilage after last summer's power
outage (July 1999):

"Anybody that's taking $100 and signs
a release better get their head

Giuliani to a David Guthartz, a caller
to his radio show who complained about
the ban on pet ferrets (July 1999):

"There is something deranged about
you ... this excessive concern with
little weasels is a sickness ... you
should go consult a psychologist or a
psychiatrist with this excessive
concern, how you are devoting your life
to weasels. You
need somebody to help you. There are
people in this city and in this world
that need a lot of help. Something has
gone wrong with you."


Giuliani on New York (June 1999):

"There is a lot of complexity here, a
lot of deep psychological fears that
people don't understand and therefore
can't put on the table."

And finally, a conversation between a
doctor and Giuliani during a visit to a
Staten Island emergency room,
where Giuliani handed out cookies to
patients (November 1997):

Doctor: "Do you need a cardiogram by

Mayor: "I probably need my head

Anna Holmes

Anna Holmes is a writer and editor in New York; her first book, "Hell Hath No Fury: Women's Letters from the End of the Affair", was published last fall in hardcover and will be published in paperback by Ballantine Books in February 2003.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Hillary Rodham Clinton Rudy Giuliani