In his 2002 political memoir, Leadership, Rudy Giuliani—then basking in the acclaim of the media consensus-sphere as “America’s mayor”—claimed that his entire ethos in public life was summed up in a two-word slogan mounted on a plaque in his office: “I’m responsible.”
Well, that was then. After Giuliani sought to mint his post-9/11 renown as a heroic leader in a crisis into a presidential run in 2008, the former New York mayor and prosecutor for New York’s Southern District has embarked on an epic flight from responsibility unparalleled in modern American public life. Even Giuliani’s ill-chosen late-life mentor, Donald Trump—now arraigned on criminal charges of fraud in New York and liable for the sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll, amid a raft of other pending leading proceedings—can’t rival Giuliani’s spectacular fall from grace, for the simple reason that he never had been a plausible candidate for grace in the first place. While Trump has always presented himself proudly before the public as a shrewd and morally compromised hustler who can and will say and do anything in the sacred cause of self-advancement, Giuliani had positioned himself as something closer to the country’s assured and righteous superego—handing out stiff criminal punishments to Wall Street grifters like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken and summoning the resourceful and gritty spirit of New York out of the ruins of the September 11 terror attacks as other bewildered civic leaders looked on in impotence.
Giuliani’s notorious tour as Trump’s personal attorney has already forcefully demolished that decidedly rickety study in media-led hero worship. His eager parroting of lies about rampant election fraud in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss capped a long series of shady alliances with corrupt international financiers and fixers, while his relentless pursuit of any gig involving a camera and a lavish paycheck has funded a singularly drunken and debauched sprint through the influence-peddling corridors of power in New York and Washington. Now, Noelle Dunphy, whom Giuliani had retained in 2019 as the business development leader of his motley collection of Giuliani-branded companies and his personal executive assistant, has filed suit against the Trump consigliere alleging that Giuliani had subjected her to ongoing sexual assault, harassment, and rape throughout her two-year tenure.
What’s more, Mr. I’m Responsible never actually paid Dunphy a salary during her time with the Giuliani organizations. He’d offered her compensation of $1 million a year and business expenses, Dunphy’s suit alleges, but continued to rebuff her requests to be paid with the claim that he couldn’t afford it until his pending divorce was finalized. (Dunphy claims that he coughed up just $12,000 when she worked for him, and dodged her requests for basic reimbursements of meal, lodging, and transportation outlays). The $10 million suit thus seeks damages for a series of labor law violations in addition to its claims of routine and intensifying sexual harassment and assault on the job.
The accounts of Guiliani’s coercive sexual predation in the filing are cause enough to forever purge the phrase “America’s mayor” from the lexicon. Giuliani forcibly kissed Dunphy her first day on the job, the suit alleges, and exploited his position as a pro bono consultant in a domestic violence complaint she was pursuing against a former partner to re-traumatize her in repellent fashion. He would induce the formerly light-drinking Dunphy into long bouts of day-long inebriation, thereby negating consent as a factor in their relations. At one point, Dunphy charges, he struck her in the face during sex and declared it a “sexy” gesture. He began to refer to her as his “daughter” during these sessions, and confessed at one point, “I’ve wanted you from the day I interviewed you.” He’d also regularly hurl sexualized and misogynistic slurs at her; in one all-too-representative exchange, he reportedly told her, “You’re my consultant. Go down on me.”
Dunphy’s complaint notes that many of these remarks were recorded. It was part of her job, she explains, to track Giuliani’s enrichment schemes and political confabs, and he was so keen to ensure that they were saved for posterity that he’d occasionally press “record” on Dunphy’s phone himself. He also installed his professional e-mail account on her computer for her to monitor—thereby putting her in the path of all sorts of privileged and sensitive communications, such as plans bandied about in February 2019 between Trump and Giuliani to claim rampant election fraud in the event the 2020 balloting didn’t break Trump’s way. The suit also says that Giuliani told Dunphy he could procure presidential pardons from Trump for a $2 million fee—provided such arrangements weren’t documented as part of the official pardon-granting process.
As the FBI began taking an interest in Giuliani’s role in Trumpworld, he sought to get Dunphy to play dumb on his behalf. He told her to deny to federal law enforcement officials that she knew Giuliani at all, and tried to get her to erase all prior digital communications with him. To drive the point home, the suit alleges, “he threatened that he had access to professional investigators who could make her look bad even though, Giuliani admitted, she was ‘very innocent.’ Giuliani continued, ‘You’ve got to be smart enough to know what I just said.’” When he wasn’t threatening mob-like retaliation, the former federal prosecutor was still relying on Dunphy to help him assess his own legal culpability through his thick fog of liquored corruption: “Giuliani asked Ms. Dunphy for help in Googling information about obstruction of justice, among other topics,” the complaint drily notes.
Like Carroll’s successful civil action against Trump and the suit that Dominion Voting Systems settled against Fox News, Dunphy’s suit exposes the cruelty, seediness, and self-seeking grift at the heart of the Trumpist political moment. It’s not just that venal actors like Giuliani and Trump will auction off executive favors and obstruct justice with virtually each new breath they draw. Nor is it only that they conspired to commit destabilizing election fraud from within the Oval Office a year and a half prior to the 2020 balloting. It’s that they think we’re all their consultants—and can be bullied into any sort of abasement they see fit as a simple matter of entitled power. Until now, they haven’t been proven wrong.