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Home of the whopper

Though Giuliani boasts about his tenure as mayor, the record shows he regularly stretches the truth.

December 03, 2007

Some illuminating news about the Republican front-runner in the race for the presidency arrived last week in the form of an examination of Rudolph W. Giuliani's mayoral record and campaign rhetoric by one of his hometown papers, the New York Times, and FactCheck.org, a nonprofit truth-screener that watches candidates from both parties.

Giuliani likes to claim that during his years as mayor, he cut spending by 7%, but it actually grew by about 3.7% a year (granted, that fact comes from a dubious source, Giuliani's memoir). He takes credit for $9 billion in tax cuts, but many of those were state taxes and one cut was enacted over his opposition, which doesn't deter him from claiming it as his achievement. He asserts that New York City averaged 1,800 homicides a year in the three decades before he became mayor, but the real number is closer to 1,500.

Nor are Guiliani's whoppers confined to his glowing recollections of his time as mayor. In his discussions of healthcare reform, he denounces the British iteration of that system -- "socialized medicine," in Giuliani's typically subtle formulation -- for producing a prostate cancer survival rate of just 44%. In fact, more than 74% of British patients survive their bouts with the disease. Giuliani's mischaracterization of the facts is severe enough that even some of his supporters have winced.

Campaigns are not known for their strict fidelity to the truth -- Mitt Romney, another contender for the Republican nomination, has piled up some doozies of his own, and the Democratic field has produced its share. But Giuliani's stretches are noteworthy for at least two reasons: His candidacy is predicated almost exclusively on his record as mayor -- the same record he's misrepresenting -- and he likes to set himself apart from his rivals by claiming greater precision -- this while being imprecise. That pushes Giuliani's misstatements beyond mere inaccuracy and into the dicier realm of hypocrisy.

Confronted with the discrepancies, Giuliani's spokeswoman retreated to the low country of imprecision even while claiming the high ground of exactitude. "The mayor likes detail," she told the Times. "And at the end of the day, he is making points that are true."

Except when they're not.

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