WABC Cancels Giuliani’s Radio Show Over False Election Claims

Rudolph W. Giuliani was suspended by WABC radio on Friday and his daily talk show was abruptly canceled after the station said he violated its policy by trying to discuss discredited claims about the 2020 presidential election on air.

John Catsimatidis, the billionaire Republican businessman who owns the station, said he had made the decision after Mr. Giuliani refused to avoid the topic despite repeated warnings.

“We’re not going to talk about fallacies of the November 2020 election,” Mr. Catsimatidis said in a brief phone interview. “We warned him once. We warned him twice. And I get a text from him last night, and I get a text from him this morning that he refuses not to talk about it.”

“So,” Mr. Catsimatidis continued, “he left me no option. I suspended him.”

Mr. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, was one of the leading figures in former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to contest and overturn the 2020 election results. He was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer at the time and helped coordinate legal challenges to Mr. Biden’s victory in several states in a bid to keep Mr. Trump in office.

Mr. Giuliani’s removal from WABC, one of his only current sources of income, is almost certain to add to the mounting legal and financial woes that have engulfed him in the years since. The suspension will deny him one of his last mainstream public platforms.

Mr. Giuliani has been criminally charged in two states, Georgia and Arizona, for this role in the effort to overturn the 2020 results and has been targeted in a number of recent lawsuits. He has also been besieged by creditors, including two Georgia election workers to whom he owes $148 million after a court found that he had defamed them.

In a statement, he called WABC’s policies “a clear violation of free speech.” He disputed that he had been aware of any policy related to what he could say on air about the 2020 election, and said he only learned he had been fired when contacted by The New York Times.

“Obviously I was never informed on such a policy, and even if there was one, it was violated so often that it couldn’t be taken seriously,” he wrote.

In many ways, it was an unlikely falling out. Under Mr. Catsimatidis, a grocery store magnate, WABC has become a haven for conservative voices and colorful New York City characters. He broadcast Mr. Giuliani’s show every weekday and featured him on another program on Sundays.

Mr. Catsimatidis said the former mayor earned a percentage of the show’s advertising revenue, rather than a salary. The Times reported last year that Mr. Giuliani earned roughly $400,000 a year from WABC; more recent court filings suggested he was losing money on the endeavor.

Mr. Catsimatidis has his own long history with Mr. Trump, who continues to insist that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him. He hosted the former president on WABC in 2022, and was recently listed as a co-chair of a major fund-raiser in Palm Beach, Fla., last month for Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.

But at a time when other conservative media outlets have been sued for defamation related to false claims about the 2020 election, Mr. Catsimatidis appears to have grown increasingly concerned that Mr. Giuliani’s continued presence on air could put WABC in legal jeopardy.

Mr. Catsimatidis said that WABC had issued a memo on Jan. 12, 2021, just days after a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, governing how hosts could speak about the day’s events on air.

“Red Apple Media is committed to uniting the nation during this unprecedented and tumultuous time,” said the memo, using the name of the company that owns WABC. “To that end, Red Apple Media is directing all of its on-air talent to not state, suggest or imply that the election results are not valid or that the election is not over.”

By Mr. Catsimatidis’s account, the events that prompted Mr. Giuliani’s suspension escalated on Thursday, as the host railed against the legal cases against him and the suspension of his law license in New York. He was midsentence when employees in the control room cut him off.

Curtis Sliwa, a former Republican candidate for mayor and host of another WABC program, quickly cut in to announce “breaking news” about a legal case involving Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s former Democratic governor.

Mr. Catsimatidis said the decision to suspend Mr. Giuliani was a painful one. He has known Mr. Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and two-term New York City mayor, for four decades.

“Look, I like the guy as a person, but you can’t do that,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “You can’t cross the line.”

A separate letter sent from Mr. Catsimatidis to Mr. Giuliani on Thursday and later obtained by The Times indicated that WABC had been monitoring the host’s comments about the election “the past few months.”

It cited with concern a Bloomberg Law article reporting that the two Georgia poll workers Mr. Giuliani defamed were accusing him of making new false statements. Mr. Catsimatidis also wrote that radio operators had “worked diligently” to excise content that might run afoul of defamation laws.

“You are once again stating that there was fraud,” he wrote. “You may not do so on our airwaves.”

In his own statement on Friday, Mr. Giuliani asserted that Mr. Catsimatidis was being “pressured” by Democratic lawyers and other adversaries. He also disputed the idea that he had been aware the election was off limits on his show.

“How can you possibly believe that when I’ve been regularly commenting on the 2020 election for three and a half years, and I’ve talked about the case in Georgia incessantly ever since the verdict in December,” he wrote in his statement. “Other WABC hosts and newscasters questioned me on these topics.”

Mr. Catsimatidis said he had his own views about the outcome of the last presidential election, but that, like Mr. Giuliani’s, they were not a subject to discuss on air.

“My view is that nobody really knows but we had made a company policy,” he said. “It’s over, life goes on.”

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