Speaking at a private dinner, Mr. Giuliani said: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” according to Politico.
“Look, this man was brought up basically in a white family, so whatever he learned or didn’t learn, I attribute this more to the influence of communism and socialism” than to his being African-American, Giuliani told the New York Daily News on Friday.
His initial comments drew a brutal backlash of derision and criticism from pundits, the public, and fellow Republicans. He's even reportedly received death threats. But that doesn’t mean Giuliani’s words fell only on hostile ears.
“There are plenty of people who have long been committed to buying the story created in 2008 about how Obama is an outsider,” wrote Jenée Desmond-Harris, politics and law reporter for Vox.
Controversy over the president’s birthplace, for instance, lives on long after the White House released Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate in 2011. Vox cited an Economist/YouGov poll that found that recently as last year, 15 percent of Americans were absolutely sure that the president was born outside the United States.
It takes no great leap to get from the idea of an “outsider” president to that of one who doesn’t love his own country, according Ms. Desmond-Harris. Giuliani, she wrote, tapped into the belief that Obama “is somehow not one of us and fundamentally different (in a way that could potentially be scary).”
Some of the former mayor’s supporters hold a similar opinion.
“[Giuliani] represents a lot of Americans who are scratching their heads wondering why our president – the president of the United States – doesn’t defend our culture the way he defends everybody else’s culture,” Joe M. Allbaugh, a former Giuliani adviser who led the Federal Emergency Management Agency during 9/11, told The New York Times.
"The case for Mr. Obama’s lack of love for this nation is compelling. We face an enemy who hates us and wants to destroy us, and Mr. Obama wants to appease them. Mr. Obama is trying to run the clock out while Iran develops the bomb. At the same time, he alienates almost every ally America has," writes Judson Phillips in the Washington Times.
Giuliani’s comments did not, as seems implied by the sheer volume of reports around the issue, come out of the blue. The same New York Times story described the former mayor, now a frequent paid speaker, as having long been prone to flamboyant, excessive, and inflammatory rhetoric.
And now that Giuliani doesn't appear to have the ambition to run for office again, he also has less reason to exercise self-restraint, according to the Times.
Of course, just because he’s long been that way doesn’t mean Giuliani’s critics are willing to lay off.
“It was a horrible thing to say,” White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.
“I think it’s pitiful,” Mr. de Blasio added.
Others have taken to Twitter to vilify Giuliani.
“I wouldn’t have said it,” billionaire John Catsimatidis, who hosted the dinner where Giuliani first spoke, told the New York Daily News. “I respect the position of the president.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) disagreed with his fellow Republican, as well.
“I’ll suffice it to say that I believe the president loves America,” Mr. Rubio told Florida TV network WBPF, though he clarified, “I think his ideas are bad."