Rudy Guilliani Insults Islam and Clings to the Politics of Fear

by James M. Wall

To really grasp Rudy Guilliani’s disdain and anger toward Islam, a bigotry he incorrectly assumes all non-Muslim Americans share,  we need to closely study the keynote address he gave as an introduction to the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

By comparing the text handed out to the media in advance with the actual words used by Guilliani, we find that the former mayor of New York inserted a quip in his speech that insults Islam. 

Guilliani took his bias against Islam to a worldwide audience. He offered it as a key platform plank for Republicans with which to ask voters for four more years of the politics of fear.

This is the same Guilliani who, as mayor of New York in October, 2001, rejected a check of $10 million for relief of the families of victims of 911.  Why?  Because the check came from a Saudi prince who, after giving the city the check, suggested that “the United States ‘must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack.'”. He specifically urged the US to take a more “balanced” approach toward the Palestinians. 

Guilliani took the word “balanced”, as an insult to Israel, and returned the check. Then and now, it was a stupid thing to do. In the weeks following 911, politicians like Guilliani did not provide leadership; they fanned the flames of anger and hatred that gripped a shocked nation.

Seven years later, Guilliani still does not understand leadership. He still clings to the one thing he learned from 911: The politics of fear.  It was that truncated wisdom he took with him to the Republican convention as its keynote speaker.  

In his mind, Rudy thinks he is funny and capable of tossing out insulting jokes. Sadly, he lacks the ability to insult with affection.  He is no Henny Youngman, who begged audiences to “take my wife, please”, and then followed with lines like:

“I haven’t talked to my wife in three days. I didn’t want to interrupt her.”  “I took my wife to a wife-swapping party. I had to throw in some cash.” Being Jewish, Youngman could use barbs about Jews, because his audiences knew they were tossed out with affection for Jews. Examples:” “Why do Jewish divorces cost so much? They’re worth it.” “Why do Jewish men die before their wives? They want to.” “Why don’t Jews drink? It interferes with their suffering.”

When Rudy Guilliani used an insult quip, he exposed his biases.  He hasn’t learned in all his years in politics that for a joke to be funny, you have to love your targets, not hate them. I cannot believe that the Republican speech monitors at the convention, those who prepared the tele prompters, would have approved the anti-Islam zinger Rudy sent out to his world audience. 

Rudy’s quip may have been field tested in a smoke filled back room of a New York City bar. Maybe it worked there, as it seemed to do for Republican delegates looking for red meat to chew on before they rush out to attack the elite media and make the nation embrace the small town values that will carry them to victory in November.   

The egregious anti-Islamic quip from Rudy Guilliani was not in the text handed out early to the media. You may compare the original text with what Rudy actually said in the video by checking both text and video available on Huffington Post: 

Prepared Text “And he [McCain] will keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad. For 4 days in Denver and for the past 18 months Democrats have been afraid to use the words “Islamic Terrorism.” During their convention, the Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of September 11. They are in a state of denial about the threat that faces us now and in the future. You need to face your enemy in order to defeat them. John McCain will face this threat and lead us on to victory.”

Guilliani diverted from that text between 14:17 minutes and 15:53 into his speech (fast forward if you prefer) with added words highlighted in bold below. His new language reveals an anti-Islam bigotry which has thus far drawn absolutely no criticism from a media that normally watches candidates and speech makers like hungry wolves trailing a baby moose across an Alaskan tundra.  

Video of the speech: “John McCain will keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad. (extended applause) For 4 days in Denver, (omits “and for the past 18 months the) Democrats were afraid to use the words Islamic terrorism. I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it.  I think they believe it will insult someone, Please tell me who were they insulting if they say Islamic terrorism? They are insulting terrorists. (laughter and applause). Cause, of great concern to me during those same four days in Denver, they rarely mentioned the attacks of September 11, 2001. They are in a state of denial about the biggest threat that faces (omits “us now and in the future”) this country.

In his speech, Guilliani changed the prepared final words of this pertinent paragraph: “You need to face your enemy in order to defeat them. John McCain will face this threat and lead us on to victory.” to read: 

And if you deny it and you don’t deal with it you can’t face it. John McCain can face the enemy. He can win and he can bring victory for this country.” 

These final sentences reveal Guillini’s faith in the “Clash of Civilizations” rationale which Republicans embraced to explain the events of September 11, 2001. It was the classic “us against them” approach to foreign policy and serves as a fear-engendering simplistic description of a complex international political situation.  

In his keynote speech to the Republican convention, Rudy Guillini damned Democrats by saying they are afraid, because of political correctness, to join him in denouncing one of the three major world religious faiths with a joke about “terrorism” that is grossly misleading and an insult to all Muslims. Somewhere, Henny Youngman is not laughing.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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