New Yorkers have been treated to a public spectacle unusual even for the media-rich Big Apple: a bitter war of words between Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his estranged wife.
The conflict between Giuliani and wife Donna Hanover reached a low point of sorts on Sunday when the New York Daily News reported that the cancer treatment Giuliani has been undergoing has left him impotent. [Republican Giuliani dropped out a Senate race against Hillary Clinton after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer last June.]
According to the Daily News, it was the mayor's friends who divulged a fact that would normally be kept strictly private - apparently in an effort to cast him in a more sympathetic light. The Giuilani pals told the newspaper that despite the mayor's medical condition, Hanover has refused his request for a bigger room at Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence where Giuliani and Hanover live separately. The couple has two children, 11 and 15.
That friends of the mayor were willing to adopt such a desperate tactic is an indication of how badly Giuliani has fared in the public relations war with his wife. The mayor's weak showing can be traced to his affair with Judi Nathan, a 46-year-old Manhattan woman who sometimes accompanies Giuliani to events around the city.
Publicity about the affair has damaged the mayor politically. The city's high-circulation tabloid newspapers have given prominent play to the mayor's marriage woes. Many political observers say the marital messiness was at least as important as Giuliani's cancer condition in prompting the mayor to drop out of a run against Hillary Clinton.
Giuliani, 56, formally filed for divorce from Hanover, 51, last October. Most of the details were kept quiet until last week.
That's when Hanover sought a restraining order to bar Nathan from Gracie Mansion.
While documents related to the case are sealed - as they are in all divorce cases in New York state - divorce attorneys say such requests are usually made out of fear that the visits would emotionally harm children living in the house.
But Giuliani's divorce lawyer Raoul Felder disputes that Hanover has the children in mind. In court last week, he called the city's first lady a "foolish" and "trivial" woman bent on destroying Giuliani and garnering publicity.
"She will stay in Gracie Mansion until they take her screaming, scratching, and kicking out of that place," he said.
Hanover's attorney, Helene Brezinsky, responded by calling Giuliani "a man who has been flaunting his mistress. Look at that if you want to know who wants publicity."
Besides serving as the family's living quarters, the taxpayer-supported residence is also used for official events - and Nathan, a nurse who now works for a philanthropic organization, has been known to attend some of them. Her visits include a 1999 celebration honoring the world champion Yankees, and a party in March that included the Rockettes and the cast of "The Sopanos."
Gracie Mansion, built in 1799 as a country house for a Scottish merchant, is the site of dozens of public ceremonies and press conferences each year. The two-story, federal-style building consists of the Old House, where the family lives, and the reception area, where most public events are held. Each Wednesday and Thursday morning, the house is open for public tours.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische has not yet ruled on Hanover's request, which both Giuliani and Hanover have declined to discuss publicly.
Divorce attorney Susan Bracker said there are two common conditions under which Nathan could be barred from Gracie Mansion: if the mayor has an alternate residence, or if there were the risk of domestic violence.
But other lawyers say Hanover must simply show that the children's well-being would be harmed by Nathan's visits. Conversely, if Giuliani can show that Nathan's presence at Gracie is vital to his job as mayor, Hanover would have a harder time keeping Nathan out.
"For all we know, she aids him in his work," Beslow said.
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