You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

How Giuliani Became Trump’s Chief Conspiracist

He's been preparing for this moment since his days as a prosecutor in New York.

Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News/Getty

Throughout October, as Rudy Giuliani was revealed to be the linchpin in President Donald Trump’s shadow campaign to convince Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, the former New York mayor never stopped defending the president. He likened the impeachment inquiry to the Salem witch trials and, on Fox, attempted to pin the Ukraine fiasco on the State Department, the “idiot press,George Soros, and something called “Obamaland.”

The press proposed various theories to explain how this once-revered eminence had become a maladroit Kent to Trump’s deranged King Lear. Some said Giuliani had a misguided sense of loyalty, others that he had been off his rocker since the death of his political consigliere Peter Powers in 2016. In reality, he has been practicing for his role as Trump’s chief conspiracist for decades. His entire career has been conducted in shout-driven, near-paranoiac overdrive. As a federal prosecutor in the 1980s, he courted the tabloids, donning a leather jacket to conduct a fake drug deal. He also designed the “perp walk” to parade arrested Wall Street executives before the press. In 2000, he held a somber press conference to announce his divorce even before he told his wife.

That Giuliani should now take his talents to Fox News is more than coincidental: He owes his political success to its founders. Roger Ailes served as Giuliani’s media consultant during his first, failed mayoral campaign in 1989, and, as mayor, Giuliani returned the favor by offering the fledgling network a public-access TV station; he also officiated Ailes’s wedding. So when he popped up on Fox years later to attack Black Lives Matter and decry Obama’s anti-police “propaganda,” he was renewing a cozy relationship founded not only on political horse-trading but also on a shared affinity for spittle-flecked, anti-liberal invective.

The same holds true for the fragrant alliance between America’s mayor and America’s president. The two men share a deep love for all things theatrical. The former mayor’s claim, “I am the real whistleblower,” is entirely of a piece with the president’s odes to his own “unmatched wisdom.” And even though he’s not an opera buff like Giuliani, Trump is at the very least a devoted reader of Page Six. The tragedia for Giuliani is that his fellow New Yorker may not reward his loyalty: It likely won’t be long before Trump throws him under the bus. At that point, America’s mayor will have completed the now familiar trajectory of the mediagenic Trump ally, from Fox pundit to late-night punch line.