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The Giuliani-assisted NYPD riot in 1992 was a test run for Jan. 6

A new MSNBC docuseries highlights uncanny similarities between Giuliani and Trump, including a Jan. 6-style police riot that Giuliani helped spark in 1992.


The new MSNBC docuseries on the rise and fall of Rudy Giuliani will have you seeing double. 

When Truth Isn’t Truth: The Rudy Giuliani Story” chronicles his political ascent on the back of racist politicking, which he used to win New York’s mayorship from the city’s first Black mayor, David Dinkins, in 1992. The film draws connections between Giuliani’s immoral, illiberal style of leadership and power-broking and the style that Donald Trump — with Giuliani’s help — popularized as leader of the modern conservative movement. 

And that backdrop is used to paint the two men in an eerily similar light: two bigoted New York natives thirsty for power and maniacally jealous of anyone who wields it. These similarities are clear throughout the series as the film moves between older Giuliani footage and more recent Trump footage. Watching the series, you get a sense that Trumpism is actually Giuliani-ism reborn.

Watching the series, you get a sense that Trumpism is actually Giuliani-ism reborn.

One of the clearest examples of this comes near the end of the first of the four episodes, when viewers are shown images of the 1992 New York City Police Department riot Giuliani helped rev up outside City Hall as a way to turn local officers — most of them white — against Dinkins for what they claimed was insufficient loyalty to the department. (This largely stemmed from Dinkins’ support for a civilian review board to assess police behavior at a time when police brutality was in focus nationwide after the beating of Rodney King.)

Reporter Lauren Nahmias wrote an excellent feature on the 1992 riot — and Giuliani’s racist manipulation — for New York magazine, which you can read here.

In “Truth Isn’t Truth,” we see footage of rioters hopping on police cars, knocking over barricades and chanting on the steps of City Hall, and the imagery looks nearly identical to the pro-Trump riot on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. 

As Joy Reid describes it in the first episode: “The NYPD decided to go to war.” 

As was the case on the morning of Jan. 6, when Giuliani delivered a violent speech before the Capitol riot, he’s pictured front and center amid the mayhem in 1992. As New York police officers holler — with some of them reportedly shouting racist epithets about Dinkins — we see and hear Giuliani on a megaphone, railing against the mayor.

When we ultimately see footage of Dinkins at a news conference denouncing the epithets, the moment feels very much like watching the House testimony of a Capitol Police officer who described enduring racist rhetoric from Jan. 6 rioters who had stormed the Capitol after Giuliani told them, “Let’s have trial by combat.”

That’s the thesis of “When Truth Isn’t Truth,” if I had to name one. It’s a film about vicious liars, their deceitful tactics and the people they’re willing to sacrifice in furtherance of their self-serving ambition.

I’ll be covering other elements of the series in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to The ReidOut Blog for more!

“When Truth Isn’t Truth: The Rudy Giuliani Story” premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC and will be available to stream on Peacock on Monday.