There’s No Silencing This Ring

Rudy Giuliani's bizarre cell phone etiquette

It’s no fun to be one of those moralizing prigs lamenting the up-close-and-personal treatment the presidential candidates are getting this election cycle. So instead, I’d like to point out an instance where this intimate and intense scrutiny of the candidates’ every gesture and utterance has actually yielded a certain truth, one that was becoming otherwise well concealed. I’m talking, of course, about Rudy Guiliani’s cell phone.

The narrative arc of Giuliani coverage had been that the brash New York mayor was effectively transforming himself into a warm and fuzzy character who would be palatable to a national audience. Adam Nagourney’s portrait of Rudy visiting the small towns of Iowa and chatting with local folks at diners was becoming typical. Nagourney’s article described Giuliani as seeming “a lot more attuned to the rhythms and culture of Iowa than he did a few months ago.”

But now this character transformation has hit a snag, or as John Fund put it today in the Wall Street Journal, there is a “fly in the ointment.” It started with a much reported interruption of an NRA speech a few weeks ago in which Giuliani stopped mid-sentence to take a call from his wife while the stupefied audience waited. And maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t have the kind of media we do, it would have ended there. But now it’s emerged that this was not just an anomaly. As Fund notes, “he has taken such calls more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors.” They are all from his wife, Judith. But that’s not all. Fund also quotes a Washington Post article in which Rudy is captured embarrassing a woman whose cell phone has started ringing in the middle of his speech.

Well, say what you will about the media, but this seems to be a pretty revelatory fact about the man. Despite the attempt to remake himself into a down-home type, Giuliani still has that New Yorker edge to him - or, what those out in the heartland might call, rudeness. Fund even quotes a Fox News poll that found only nine percent of Americans think interrupting a speech to take a call from a spouse is acceptable. Whatever kind of mask you want to wear as a candidate, when you’ve got this kind of attention on you, the cracks will always show.

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Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.