American media always knew Rudy Giuliani was a corrupt, racist creep. They loved him and wanted you to love him too.

At The Nation, Jeet Heer takes aim at those suggesting that something went wrong only recently with disgraced, indicted, drunken defamer Rudy Giuliani. He is not a tragic figure; he was always like this, and the real tragedy is that U.S. media spent decades posing someone they knew to be an authoritarian racist as a crime-fighting hero.

The true tragedy of his career is that the mainstream media, eager to have a socially moderate Republican to lionize, consistently whitewashed his record for decades, both before 9/11 and after. As my Nation colleague Spencer Ackerman noted in his 2021 book Reign of Terror, "Guiliani had always been a media creation, propelled by journalists who might have found him incorrigible but generally treated him as a necessity to control an out-of-control city—something that, in practice, meant repressing Black, brown, and poor New Yorkers."

The media dream of a "socially moderate Republican" is for real—a neoliberal shortening of the way. If it seems odd, then, that that the people that are cast as this character (here's The New York Times anointing Nikki Hayley with the magic word) are in fact right-wingers, it's because we don't care about what's true, only about the form and function of stories. But even that thought, what I am writing now, is a stock story: "#5: the mainstream media's intransigent flaws."