A very familiar story about Rudy

ABC News zeroed in on Giuliani's ties to a priest accused of covering up and engaging in child abuse -- but you read it here in June.

Published October 23, 2007 9:58PM (EDT)

Salon readers who saw this ABC News story about Rudy Giuliani's best friend, Monsignor Alan Placa, employed at Giuliani Partners though he's been credibly accused by a Long Island grand jury of both covering up and engaging in child abuse, might have felt a little déjà vu. Yes, we ran much the same story in June, complete with a first-person account by a man who says Placa abused him in the 1970s, Richard Tollner, as well as the revelation that Placa co-owns a Manhattan home with Brendan Riordan, the pastor who, despite the abuse charges, keeps Placa on as "priest in residence" at his church in Great Neck, N.Y. What you didn't see in the ABC report was any reference to Salon, even though the Associated Press picked up our story in June with full credit. Nor did the network mention the Long Island newspaper Newsday, which has led on the Placa story since 2002, and which we credited in our own story.

The good news is, this story isn't going away. Giuliani continues to say he believes Placa is innocent of the child abuse charges. He's entitled, I suppose, to take a friend's side in a painful scandal, even if there are multiple witnesses making similar accusations and their testimony was deemed credible by investigators, prosecutors and the Suffolk County grand jury. But journalists need to get more specific with their questions to Giuliani. About two minutes into an Oct. 18 clip of raw press-conference audio from Wisconsin Public Radio titled "New York Mayor Stumps in Milwaukee," you can hear the candidate give a generic answer to a generic question about the grand jury report and Placa's innocence. He says, "I know the man. I know who he is, so I support him." Instead of asking general questions, or asking about the alleged molestation, reporters should focus on the grand jury report's other finding, which is arguably more troubling. The grand jury found extensive evidence, including documents apparently prepared by Placa himself, that for years Placa suppressed valid child abuse complaints in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Placa, who served as sex-abuse "investigator" for the diocese, did not tell the families bringing the complaints of abuse that he was a lawyer. In a memo, he asked that complainants not be informed that he was a lawyer. He also bragged, in print, that the diocese had the "lowest ratio of losses to assets of any diocese ... Our system is in place and working well." Does Giuliani, a former prosecutor, believe that the grand jury report is mistaken about the coverup as well?

On Wednesday morning, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, will be protesting outside the offices of Giuliani Partners in Manhattan, and they'll be asking that very question. According to SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, "You can say you believe your pal is innocent [of abuse], but how do you address the fact that there is substantial, credible evidence of a coverup? He's got to address that."

By Joan Walsh

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