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Rudy Giuliani wanted more money for radio show, station owner claims

The demand came several days before the former New York City mayor was suspended for airing election-related conspiracy theories on his WABC-AM show.

The demand came several days before the former New York City mayor was suspended for airing election-related conspiracy theories on his WABC-AM show.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appears at a political event in 2019. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appears at a political event in 2019. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani asked the owner of a local radio station for more money and airtime several days before he was suspended for violating an on-air conduct policy.

This week, WABC (770 AM) owner John Catsimatidis said Giuliani made the demand via text message on Tuesday, May 7, two days before Catsimatidis suspended him for making conspiratorial comments about the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election.

The comments violated an internal policy issued by Red Apple Media earlier this year and re-stated in writing last week by Catsimatidis himself, according to a statement sent to The Desk on Monday. The policy cautioned Giuliani and others from making unfounded claims about the 2020 Presidential election in on-air broadcasts. The letter sent by Catsimatidis warned Giuliani specifically against the practice.

Related: Rudy Giuliani loses WABC-AM show over election-related conspiracy theories

Despite the warnings, Catsimatidis says Giuliani opened his radio broadcast last Thursday by complaining about a Bloomberg News story that reported on defamatory comments made about volunteers in Georgia who were overseeing the outcome of the presidential election nearly four years ago. Last year, Giuliani was ordered to pay $148 million following a defamation case brought by some of those election workers; he later filed for bankruptcy protection.

In bankruptcy documents, Giuliani listed his radio show at WABC-AM as one of his primary sources of income. He received no direct salary from the station or Catsimatidis; instead, he earned a cut of advertising revenue sold against his show, which brought in nearly $400,000 per year.

After Thursday’s broadcast, Catsimatidis issued another warning to Giuliani regarding his proclivity toward the election and the airing of his personal and unfounded beliefs. At the time, Giuliani was not suspended, and there was an expectation that he would continue his radio show on Friday.

But late Thursday evening, Giuliani texted Catsimatidis to say that he was “disregarding every order given in [the] letter.” He restated that position early Friday morning, which prompted Catsimatidis to assemble a meeting with the station’s management.

The outcome of the meeting was not to fire Giuliani, but to pull his show from WABC’s schedule and to suspend him from the station.

“Of course, nobody here has ever been fired for free speech or talking about the election — even though in my mind, talking about the election of 2020 is like talking about who shot Kennedy,” Catsimatidis said in a statement. “At the end of the day, Rudy attempted to talk about the manipulation of electronic voting machines. He has admitted this himself.”

More developments over the weekend are also cause for concern, Catsimatidis said. He referenced an article apparently published by the New York Post on Saturday that claims Giuliani was “on the payroll of Newsmax.” The Desk was not able to find an article published on the New York Post’s website that contained that claim, and it was not clear if an article appeared in print referencing the same.

Still, Catsimatidis said Giuliani’s apparent confession that he was on the payroll at Newsmax — wherever it was printed — was “concerning to me” after the station was subpoenaed late last year in a legal case involving Newsmax. Catsimatidis and WABC’s parent company, Red Apple Media, are not parties to the lawsuit, “and there is no factual or legal basis for this subpoena,” he affirmed.

Catsimatidis was also concerned by a social media stream started by Giuliani over the weekend, in which he repeatedly disparaged Catsimatidis and other station officials at WABC.

“Rudy has publicly accused me of suppressing his free speech, calling my decision ‘unconstitutional’ and a violation of the First Amendment,” Catsimatidis offered. “However, as a licensee of the FCC, the First Amendment grants me the rights and responsibilities to protect WABC. Each decision I make is guided by what I believe best serves the station, our listeners, and above all, the truth.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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