On Wednesday, Oct. 21, Giuliani attempted to get ahead of the movie when he tweeted, “(1) The Borat video is a complete fabrication. I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate. If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar. In fact, the NY Post today reports ‘it looks to me like an exaggeration through editing.’”
And to be completely fair, his clinging to The New York Post’s reading may not be unfounded. It’s clear in the now widely available film that the moment with his hand in his pants is cut together in a way that extends the length of the scene for dramatic (or comedic) effect. He does, in fact, appear to be tucking his shirt in (at least initially), and the way the story was first broken last week emphasized that Baron Cohen’s character cried, “She was 15,” when Barkalova is actually 24.
Yet even if he was only tucking in his shirt, the distinction matters little for an increasingly disgraced politician who’s inserted himself into the center of a shady conspiracy theory—and after he played a central role in the scandal that got President Trump impeached earlier this year.
For starters, whether or not Giuliani kept his hand in his pants for longer than necessary, the fact that he was in the situation as a public figure of his age and position of power is already inappropriate. Here is a 76-year-old man, with two children in their 30s, happily allowing himself to be lured into a bedroom by a woman he is supposed to be having a professional interaction with—a woman in her early 20s and who he was tricked into believing was a teenager. Even before lying on his back, he was visibly flirting with Bakalova and suggested, “You can give me your phone number and your address” while she was taking off his mic. To reaffirm his apparent interest, he placed a hand on her hip and reclined on his back. It’s a strange position for any person to be in to tuck in their shirt, to put it mildly.
But the bigger, and more important, reason his and some media outlets’ equivocating is irrelevant is because Giuliani finding himself in this situation demonstrates extraordinarily bad judgment. The kind of bad judgment that Giuliani, by his own design, has attempted to make a focal point in the 2020 presidential election.