May 11, 2000
Giuliani Announces Separation; Wife Charges Adultery
By Mike Allen
Ripping the sheets off euphemisms like "very good friend" and "separate lives," New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared yesterday that he is considering a legal separation. His wife, Donna Hanover, responded by accusing him of stepping out on her more than once.
Seems he may be doing more than "considering."
Giuliani, who raised doubts about whether he would formally enter the Senate race against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton when he announced two weeks ago that he had prostate cancer, kicked off this marital version of mutually assured destruction by telling reporters he was considering a separation, but not a divorce. For one of the few times in memory, the mayor even groped for words.
"For quite some time, it's probably been apparent that Donna and I lead, uh, in many ways independent and separate lives," he said. "It's been a very painful road and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to, uh, to formalize that in a, in an agreement that protects our children, gives them all the security and all the protection they deserve and protects Donna. And that's something we, uh, we have to work, uh, something we have to work out and we have to strive toward."
Three hours later, Hanover met the press outside Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence. She has acknowledged that she and the mayor lead separate lives, although she lives at the city-owned mansion and has a city-paid staff.
"Today's turn of events brings me great sadness," she said. "I had hoped to keep this marriage together. For several years, it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staff member. Beginning last May, I made a major effort to bring us back together, and Rudy and I reestablished some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point, he chose another path."
In a written statement, she added, "Rudy and I will now discuss the possibility of a legal separation. Because of security concerns, for at least the next few months, the children and I will remain living at Gracie. I thank all of the people who have sent me their love. And I will have no further remarks today."
Closed captioning might show that the "one staff member" was Cristyne Lategano, formerly Giuliani's communications director, who used to travel with him seven days a week and was romantically linked with him by Vanity Fair magazine. Lategano has since become head of the city tourism agency and was married in February.
The "other path" referred to Judith Nathan, a divorcee who has been seen dining privately with Giuliani for months and more recently has accompanied him to official functions.
Last week, six days after announcing he was in an early stage of prostate cancer, Giuliani, who turns 56 this month, acknowledged that Nathan was "a good friend, a very good friend."
In the tabloids, they are now "Rudy & Judi."
Giuliani and Hanover, a newscaster turned actress, have been married for 16 years. They have two children, Andrew, 14, and Caroline, 10. The mayor is Catholic.
When Giuliani was elected to his first term in 1993, the two were close, often smooching in public. Hanover was so involved in strategy that the two were compared to the Clintons in the two-for-the-price-of-one department.
Later, the two stopped appearing together in public, and the breach appeared irreparable last month when she embarrassed him by announcing she would perform in a sexually explicit play, "The Vagina Monologues." After his cancer announcement, she dropped the plan, citing "family circumstances."
Then on Saturday, Hanover, 50, broke her long silence about the state of her marriage by holding a news conference outside a wake for Cardinal John O'Connor, which ruffled the feathers of a number of high-ranking Catholics. At that time, she referred ominously to "decisions that have to be made."
Yesterday's announcement came in response to a comment by the state Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno, who said Tuesday that he hoped Giuliani and Hanover would reconcile. That was subtly summarized on the front of yesterday's New York Post as "GOP honcho's advice to Rudy on marriage mess: WORK IT OUT!"
The early conventional wisdom decreed that voters will not care about Giuliani's personal life. Jeffrey Pollock, a Democratic pollster who is president of Global Strategy Group, observed archly, "Nobody in this campaign is going to get into a war of words about marriages."
Frank Luntz, a Republican who polls for Giuliani, said public opinion will be no more swayed by Giuliani's marital difficulties than it was by his cancer. Luntz said he did eight hours of focus groups with voters after the cancer announcement, and said only two voters raised the issue.
"He beat crime, he beat drugs, he beat unemployment, he beat welfare, he beat trash in the streets, he beat the squeegee guy," Luntz said. "He's like a mayor machine."
But George Arzt, a political consultant who is one of the city's best-connected Democrats, said City Hall was awash in speculation that Giuliani was preparing to back out of the Senate race. The mayor must make his decision in time for the state Republican convention on May 30, and Arzt said that gives Giuliani seven to 10 days to signal his intentions in time to allow one of the Republican alternatives to step out of the bullpen if necessary.
"This is a lot of questions," Arzt said. "He couldn't possibly have all the answers in seven to 10 days."
Andrew Kirtzman, a reporter for cable's NY 1 News who is writing a book about Giuliani's mayoralty, said that if Giuliani runs, yesterday's statement will help him.
"It would have been close to untenable for him to run as an adulterer," said Kirtzman. "There are still a lot of Americans who don't want to vote for an adulterer – and many of them are potential Rudy supporters."
State Sen. Roy M. Goodman, a Republican who is a die-hard Giuliani backer, said he is confident the mayor is still running and said voters are sated with the topic of the mayor's infidelity.
Goodman said loftily, "It has gone from verboten to ad nauseam."
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