Giuliani's Borat scene is not surprising – we set a very low bar for powerful white men

Arwa Mahdawi
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP</span>
Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

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Giuliani continues to publicly embarrass himself

Tucking in your shirt can be a treacherous business. One minute you’re innocently smoothing out the creases, the next minute you’re being accused of trying to have sex with an underage girl. Truly, it can happen to the best of us.

It has, in any case, just happened to the worst of us. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and loyal lapdog, is currently defending his honour (whatever minuscule shred of it is left, anyway) after the release of a compromising clip from Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Borat movie. The footage shows Giuliani, 76, supine on a hotel bed with his hand down his pants while he chats to a young woman he thinks is a TV journalist. Borat then runs in, yelling: “She’s 15. She’s too old for you.” This all happens, by the way, after Giuliani agrees to eat a bat with the “journalist”. As one does.

While the footage may look dodgy, Giuliani claims he was just tucking his shirt in after removing recording equipment. There was nothing at all “inappropriate” about it, he insisted on Twitter. “If Baron Cohen implies otherwise he is a stone-cold liar.”

Baron Cohen implied otherwise. “If [Giuliani] found what he did there appropriate behavior, then heaven knows what he’s done with other female journalists in hotel rooms,” the comedian told Good Morning America on Friday. “He did what he did … make your own mind up. It was pretty clear to us.”

I don’t know, perhaps we should give poor old Giuliani the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he really did think there was nothing weird about sticking his hand down his pants in front of a journalist who had just interviewed him. Perhaps he genuinely reckons there was nothing inappropriate about being very handsy with said journalist and asking her for her phone number before sticking his hand down his pants.

Giuliani, after all, isn’t the only guy who seems to have very strange ideas about what constitutes appropriate professional conduct. This week the New Yorker suspended Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer, after reports that he was allegedly masturbating during a Zoom work call. “I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me,” Toobin told Vice’s Motherboard.

To be clear: masturbating during a work call is not appropriate even if you think you have turned the video off. One would have thought that went without saying but apparently not, judging by the number of prominent men who leapt to Toobin’s defence. “Not sure someone getting caught doing something almost everyone does should be a national story,” Vox reporter German Lop opined. (He has now deleted the tweet.) CNN’s Brian Stelter meanwhile, chose to frame Toobin’s suspension from the New York as the reporter being “sidelined at a pivotal moment” in the election; as if Toobin had been unfairly pushed out, rather than appropriately punished. And Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf tweeted that poor Toobin deserves our compassion. “When Occam’s Razor suggests someone humiliated himself through a combo of technological error, pandemic circumstances, bad judgment, & bad luck, it seems like we should react w/ empathy, politeness, & forgiveness, as we would want to be treated, rather than punitive mockery,” he said.

Giuliani has also had his defenders. “The Giuliani scene in Borat is a huge nothing,” Matt Walsh, a high-profile conservative commentator tweeted. “He was tucking in his shirt. Even if he wasn’t, he’s an unmarried man invited to a grown woman’s bedroom. There is no scandal here at all.” The mental gymnastics the Family Values™ crowd are capable of never fails to astound me.

Can you imagine a female lawyer just casually putting her hand down her pants like Giuliani did? Can you imagine a female New Yorker staff writer doing what Toobin did? Can you imagine a woman having a public meltdown, shouting about how much she loves beer, and then getting confirmed as a supreme court justice like Brett Kavanaugh? Can you imagine a woman boasting about grabbing guys by the genitals and then being elected president? It’s unfathomable. Women are held to a very different standard than men. The bar we set for powerful white guys is so low it’s honestly no wonder they are always tripping up.

Bots are creating nonconsensual deepfake nudes of women

There is a “deepfake ecosystem” on the messaging app Telegram, researchers say. Users give a bot an image of a woman and the bot “undresses” it, creating a nude image that can look very realistic. Researchers say at least 100,000 images have been generated and shared. These images can be used for extortion, harassment and blackmail.

Protests over sweeping abortion ban in Poland

Abortion due to severe foetal defects has been ruled unconstitutional in Poland, which already has some of the most draconian abortion laws in Europe. After this goes into effect, you can only get a legal abortion in the case of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health and life. Poland, which has a population of 38 million, has fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year, but women’s groups estimate that up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad. The ruling sparked widespread protests.

Saudi Arabia brazenly hosts a women’s summit

Over 80 women’s rights expert took part in the virtual Women20 Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia this week. Meanwhile the Saudi government still has a number of women’s rights activists locked up.

The pope says being gay is absolutely OK

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” Pope Francis said in an interview on Wednesday. “Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

Liam is becoming the next Kevin

The name is rapidly growing in popularity around the world.

‘Domestic violence is a workplace issue’ report by Indian transport unions finds

Seventy-five per cent of the Indian women surveyed reported direct or indirect experiences of domestic violence in their lifetime; 92% said that personal experiences of domestic violence affected their ability to work. The report describes itself as the first comprehensive investigation of the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace in India.

The week in poultryarchy

Prince Andrew is back in the spotlight: unsealed court documents appear to show that he asked Ghislaine Maxwell for information about a woman who had accused him of sexual misconduct. Prince William, meanwhile, made the news for rather more wholesome reasons: he was spotted salivating over KFC chicken. Wills has now been nicknamed His Royal Thighness.