Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani questioned whether or not President Barack Obama “loves America” during a private dinner on Wednesday, alleging that the president “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
The comments, reported by POLITICO, came at a dinner at Manhattan’s 21 Club attended by conservative business executives and media figures. Audience members included 2016 hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani reportedly told the group. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Appearing on Fox Thursday morning, Giuliani added that he was not questioning the president's patriotism but simply noting that Obama criticizes America much more than his predecessors.
"What I'm saying is that, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say about how much he loves America," he said. "I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents."
Giuliani has made headlines in recent months for questioning the president’s comments about Israel, ISIS, and racial tensions involving police.
In the wake of the shooting of two New York City police officers in December, Giuliani said “We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police.”
Asked on CNBC's Squawk Box about Giuliani's comments, Walker declined to comment, saying that Giuliani "can speak for himself."
One presidential hopeful, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, stood by Giuliani for the remarks, saying in a statement: "The gist of what Mayor Giuliani said – that the President has shown himself to be completely unable to speak the truth about the nature of the threats from these ISIS terrorists- is true. If you are looking for someone to condemn the Mayor, look elsewhere."
At a meeting of Democrats Thursday, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz denounced Giuliani's comments and challenged Republican 2016 candidates to do the same.
"If the Republican Party really wants to be taken seriously, really wants to avoid its problems of the past, now is the time for its leaders to stop this kind of nonsense," she said. "Enough."
White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters that the former mayor's comment was "a terrible thing to say" and suggested that Giuliani "test drove" a similar message during his failed 2008 presidential run.
- Carrie Dann