The Not-Quite Truth About NYC

Summary
Rudy Giuliani's latest TV ad falsely claims New York City experienced "record crime ... until Rudy." In fact, the city recorded its highest rates of both violent crime and property crime years before he took office. The downward trend was well established before he was sworn in.

The ad also claims New York is "America's most liberal city," but his campaign offers no evidence showing that the city is more liberal than, say, San Francisco; Berkeley; Washington, D.C.; or Detroit, all of which rank as more liberal in a study of voting behavior in the 2004 elections. In that study, New York ranked 21st among cities with populations of more than 100,000.

Giuliani's ad also repeats some boasts we've found to be misleading in the past. It claims he cut taxes by $9 billion but counts several tax cuts that he didn't initiate or sign, and one that he lobbied against before changing course. It also boasts that he cut welfare rolls by 60 percent but fails to note that the reduction in New York was a bit less than it was for the nation as a whole.

Analysis
Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's latest television ad, released in New Hampshire and Boston November 21, boasts of his record on cleaning up New York City. It's a familiar theme in his campaign. But while the former New York mayor has accomplishments worth trumpeting, he takes to touting facts that aren't quite right.

In the ad, titled "Challenges," Giuliani paints a gloomy picture of New York before he became mayor and then tells of how he turned the city around. "The world's 17th largest economy," the ad begins. "Swimming in red ink. Record crime. Runaway taxes. A million on welfare. That was New York. Until Rudy."

Giuliani often talks about how crime in New York declined while he was at the city's helm – and that's true. But he's off-base in describing the city as having "record crime" until he took office. Giuliani's tenure began Jan. 1, 1994, a few years after both violent and property crime in the city had begun to decline. The violent crime rate in New York had peaked in 1990 at 2,383.6 reported crimes per 100,000 people, and the property crime rate hit a high point of 7,562.5 in 1988, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and as shown in the charts below. Both types of crime continued to drop, substantially, under Giuliani, but the trend had begun years earlier.

Giuliani's ad is correct when it claims that crime was cut "in half" in his term, which ended in December 2001. Furthermore, crime declined in the city at a faster rate than it did across the nation. During his time in office violent crime fell 56 percent in New York but only 33 percent nationally. Property crime also fell 56 percent in New York and 23 percent nationally.

Giuliani would have been correct to say the city was experiencing "near record crime," but as Merriam-Webster's says, a "record" is "an unsurpassed statistic." This ad is simply false when it says the city experienced "record crime ... until Rudy."

Most Liberal Award
The ad makes a dubious and unsupported claim when it proclaims New York to be "America's most liberal city." The campaign doesn't provide any evidence to support that claim, and we can think of quite a few American cities that may well beat the Big Apple on this one. In fact, one independent study of the country's most liberal and conservative locales put NYC pretty far down the list. The Bay Area Center for Voting Research looked at the percentage of votes cast for liberal candidates in the 2004 presidential election in cities with populations of more than 100,000. The winner: Detroit, Michigan.

Next on the list was Gary, Indiana, followed by Berkeley and Washington, D.C. New York was 21st.

Giuliani isn't the only conservative candidate claiming to have tamed a "most liberal" place. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has said he managed the "most liberal state" in the nation, another unsupported claim that we cast doubt on as well.

Recycled Exaggerations
The ad repeats some other exaggerations we've criticized before.

An Old Tune on Taxes: The ad says of Giuliani: "He cut taxes 9 billion." But to arrive at the $9 billion figure Giuliani takes credit for the passage of 23 tax cuts. We found, however, that eight of those were state tax cuts approved in Albany and a ninth was a tax reduction Giuliani vociferously opposed before agreeing to side with the city council on the matter. Taking away those tax cuts, Giuliani can justifiably claim credit for lowering taxes by $5.4 billion, or $8 billion if he's allowed credit for the big cut he lobbied against.

Welfare Hype? Giuliani says in the ad that he reduced the number of people on welfare in the city by "60 percent." Not quite. As we said previously, the number of people receiving welfare benefits in New York declined from 1.112 million to 462,000 during Giuliani's term, according to the city's Independent Budget Office. That's a decline of 58.5 percent, not 60 percent. Furthermore, welfare rolls across the nation dropped by 62.2 percent during the same time period.

Sources
United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. "Crime reported by New York City Police Dept, New York." 1985–2005. 27 Nov. 2007.

United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. "Reported crime in United States-Total." 1985–2005. 27 Nov. 2007.

Rudy Giuliani campaign. "Giuliani Ad Facts 'Challenges.' " JoinRudy2008.com. 21 Nov. 2007.

Alderman, Jason, et al. "The Most Conservative and Liberal Cities in the United States." The Bay Area Center for Voting Research. 2005.

Join the Discussion