Does Barack Obama love America? Rudy Giuliani doesn't think so

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, known for controversial comments, is once again in the spotlight for his blunt language after saying last week that President Barack Obama does not love his country. Giuliani has stuck by the remark, and on Sunday tried to explain it further in an op-ed.

Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani in hot water over remark about U.S. president's patriotism

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that sought to explain controversial remarks he made last week that called into question President Barack Obama's patriotism. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday sought to explain, but not necessarily apologize for, controversial remarks he made about President Barack Obama's love of his country.

Giuliani, a Republican, has been the subject of criticism since last week when he spoke at a private dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential Republican presidential candidate.

"I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America," Giuliani said, according to Politico. "He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." 

The remarks prompted a backlash and some felt the comments were racist because of what Giuliani said about Obama's upbringing. In interviews in the days following the dinner, Giuliani didn't back down, saying his opinion was "perfectly reasonable." He declined an opportunity to apologize while interviewed on Fox News and repeatedly said he doesn't feel like Obama exudes enough love for the U.S.
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in Washington on Friday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Now he's seeking to explain himself further, but he softened the message somewhat in the op-ed piece.

"My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn't intend to question President Obama's motives or the content of his heart. My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance," Giuliani wrote.

Obama lacking 'moral clarity'

He went on to say that Obama doesn't do a good job of defending American exceptionalism and that he too often criticizes his own country. Other presidents have been able to "walk a fine line" by putting their criticisms in the context of an "unbending belief in American exceptionalism," Giuliani argued, and Obama fails that balancing act, he suggested.

"And to say, as the president has, that American exceptionalism is no more exceptional than the exceptionalism of any other country in the world, does not suggest a becoming and endearing modesty, but rather a stark lack of moral clarity," the former mayor wrote.

Giuliani said he does believe Obama is "a patriot," that he bears him no ill will and that his personal story is inspiring but the positive words ended there. He implores Obama to start underscoring "America's greatness" and to "start acting and speaking in a way" that distinguishes the U.S. from its enemies.

Giuliani acknowledged that he has a reputation for being "blunt" and that he hopes what he says, whether people agree with him or not, prompts discussion about the country's future.

Democrats have been coming to Obama's defence and some, including Congressman Andre Carson, called on Giuliani to apologize.

"I think his comments are harmful and hurtful," he said on CNN. "The president has proven himself, over and over, to not only be a proud American but arguably one of the greatest presidents that this country has produced."

Giuliani's comments 'despicable'

Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut, at the White House Friday for a meeting with other governors, said Giuliani's comments were "despicable."

"Quite frankly, no one in their right mind could question that the president loves his country," he said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters he feels sorry for Giuliani and that it's "sad" to see him tarnish his legacy.

Some Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stood by Giuliani and the former mayor said he got lots of supportive calls since the remarks were made public after the dinner — but he's also received death threats he told CNN.

Other Republicans distanced themselves. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called the comments "ill-advised," while Jeb Bush and others said they don't question Obama's motives, only his policies.

With files from The Associated Press