A battle royal broke out on the “Morning Joe” program Tuesday as MSNBC host Joe Scarborough stepped in to defend former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, the beleaguered 9/11 hero Giuliani picked to restore law and order to the city, against a series of strident personal attacks from left-leaning blogger Arianna Huffington.
Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who helped the city recover from the devastating terror attacks, was sentenced in February to four years in prison for charges that included tax fraud and lying to White House officials. He pleaded guilty rather than paying millions of dollars in legal fees against a prosecution that many contend was politically motivated.
Scarborough apparently agrees with the political motivation assessment of the Kerik case, and said so to his MSNBC audience, saying that Kerik would be “walking be walking the streets today” if Giuliani had not run for president.
Editor's Note: See the video below.
At the time, several observers complained that the sentence was clearly excessive. Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera said at the time Kerik had been sentenced by a “hanging judge,” Federal Judge Stephen Robinson. The judge sentenced Kerik as if he were a “terrorist or a murderer," Rivera said.
Even liberal legal experts noticed Judge Robinson’s strange behavior in the Kerik case. Andrew Kreig, executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, wrote his own assessment on the Huffington Post, "Feds Bullied Kerik Into 4-Year Sentence, Hurting Us All.”
At one point in open court proceedings, Robinson encouraged Kerik to fire his defense lawyer and hire new counsel, a lawyer the judge said was a personal friend of his.
Federal guidelines had indicated the crime would merit a sentence of 33 months, but the partisan judge stuck Kerik with a 48-month sentence.
Giuliani's recent endorsement of Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who is competing with GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination for Florida's open U.S. Senate race, triggered the dispute over Kerik during the MSNBC morning show.
Huffington, who apparently was offended that Giuliani had said Rubio would help stop policies of President Obama that are pushing the nation toward European-style social democracy, said the former mayor's remarks were "so over the top."
She added: "And also you know your judgment in people has not been stellar – Bernie Kerik anybody? So the idea that you're supporting Rubio now…The point is the mayor is responsible for Bernard Kerik's rise. Now you want to be responsible for Rubio's rise?"
Giuliani said using the problems of one individual to denigrate the efforts of thousands of employees was "a cheap shot."
That's when show host Scarborough took up Kerik's cause as well, saying: "Kerik did a hell of a job also keeping New York City safe. It's an unpopular thing to say. Bernie Kerik made mistakes. A lot of people make mistakes. I was glad Bernie Kerik was standing by Rudy Giuliani on September 11.
"And the bottom line is, Arianna, if Rudy Giuliani did not run for president of the United States, Bernie Kerik would be walking the streets today. Because the second Rudy Giuliani started running for president of the United States, the long knives came out and they started searching everybody's record, and they found somebody who had made some bad mistakes in Bernie Kerik."
Huffington then shifted ground, attacking Giuliani for not calling waterboarding torture and because he "spent $50 million in the presidential race and got one delegate."
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