EXCLUSIVE: Rudy Giuliani 'Couldn't Have A Better Adviser' Than Wife Judith

Judith Giuliani talks about her first marriage, her current marriage, and more.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 12:15 AM

March 31, 2007 — -- In an interview with Barbara Walters, former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said that if elected president, he would have no problem allowing his wife Judith Giuliani to sit in on cabinet meetings, "If she wanted to. If they were relevant to something that she was interested in. I mean that would be something that I'd be very, very comfortable with," he said.

He also told Walters that he welcomes his wife's involvement in policy decisions during the campaign "to the extent she wants to beI couldn't have a better adviser." When asked if she will sit in on policy meetings, Judith said: "if [Rudy] asks me to, yes. And certainly in the areas of health care."

But on Friday, seeking to clarify his comments that she might play a significant role in his administration, Giuliani said his wife will not be a member of his Cabinet or attend most high-level meetings.

Although usually a very private person, Judith Giuliani has had her fair share of headlines, most recently surrounding the news that, like her husband, she has been married three times.

She recently confirmed her previously undisclosed marriage to Jeffrey Scott Ross, whom she married in 1974 when she was 19. The couple divorced in 1979. She said she wasn't trying to keep that first marriage hidden.

"Rudy and I have never had any secrets from each other. … Rudy and I have always known everything about each other," she said. "I have just recently begun -- I think they call it in the political world -- being 'rolled out publicly.' … And when I was asked, we discussed it. That was my decision."

Rudy is now leading the Republican polls as a presidential candidate. He may be one of the most recognizable faces in New York, but few people know much about his wife.

Born in the small town of Hazleton, Pa., and of Italian descent, she has a college-age daughter named Whitney. At 52 years old, she's 10 years younger than her husband, who is the father of two college-age children, Andrew and Caroline.

Long before she was "rolled out publicly," Judith had a career as a registered nurse. She told Walters that she became a nurse because she "loved caring for people," and that her nursing skills were still helpful today.

"It's one of the best decisions I ever made, Barbara. … That skill set has transferred, for me, to many aspects of our life."

She married her second husband, Bruce Nathan, in 1979. They divorced in the early 1990s. Nathan was a wealthy man, and when the marriage ended, Judith said her finances, and her life, drastically changed.

"I became a single working mom, something I'm very proud of. I had to re-enter the work force after, oh, gosh, more than a decade after being a wife and mother. … It was an incredible growth period, Barbara, and I look back on it now and I'm so happy that I had that time period, because it made me such a much stronger person."

When asked how she and Rudy had met, Judith said, "That's one thing that I would kind of like to keep private," but she did say the two met "by accident."

She said that the two were instantly attracted to each other, and that "from the minute that Rudy and I met, we had an incredible … mutual respect for each other."

When the relationship first became public in May 2000, the headlines were harsh. The mayor shortly announced that he was divorcing his second wife, Donna Hanover, and he was forced to respond publicly and defend his new relationship, saying, "Judith Nathan is a very, very fine person. She's been a very good friend to me."

The fact that the mayor was still married when they met made the beginning of their relationship a "rocky road," but Judith says that "when you have a partnership that is based on mutual respect and communication, the two of you know what's going on."

The couple soon faced an even bigger challenge, when Rudy was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was in the midst of a heated Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton; he dropped out of the race soon after receiving his diagnosis.

"I was petrified in the beginning, of course, yes," Judith said of the fear that he might not survive the cancer. "While I tried not to let on to him at that time, that, for me, was one of the most frightening days of my entire life. And, as we all know, he's cancer-free now, thank God."

Sept. 11 introduced Rudy to America and the world, and changed many people's views of him. Judith said it changed him as well.

"I was there with Rudy shortly after the second attack. … And remained with him throughout the next several days," she said. "And the things that we saw, Barbara. … Unspeakable horrors. … There isn't [any] human being that could possibly go through that experience. … And not be changed."

Judith was constantly by the mayor's side during the aftermath of the attack. Asked whether she thought she was helpful, she replied, "I hope so. We'll let him answer that."

Rudy did answer that question, when he joined the interview to talk about the woman he clearly adores.

"Nobody will ever know all the things she did to get me and the city through Sept. 11," he said. "She said, 'I'm not leaving your side.' And I said, 'OK, well if you're going to be here, you're going to go to work."

He put Judith in charge of getting information from all of the hospitals. She helped deal with the victims' families and also helped start the Twin Towers fund.

Sept. 11 helped them put things in perspective, but it was not the end of the couple's personal challenges. The dissolution of Rudy's marriage continued to attract attention. When asked whether Judith was responsible for the breakup of his marriage, Rudy told Walters, "She was not."

"I tried to keep that all as private as possible," he said. "I think I should be very, very clear that she was not the cause of the breakup in any way at all."

"We love each other very, very much, and we developed a wonderful relationship," he said. "And she's the light of my life, and she's the person that got me through the most difficult times of my life."

As for all the scrutiny, Rudy said, "This is part of the price you pay for being a public official, a public person."

Judith acknowledged that it was "difficult" to be thought of as the other woman, especially because she was a single working mother.

Walters asked Rudy whether America had reached a point where divorce, or a number of divorces, was not important in electing a president.

"I would say we've gotten to the point where people will evaluate the whole person," he said. "None of us, at least I don't think any of us, have perfect lives. I can say very credibly to people: 'Judge me by my public performance.' Whatever mistakes I've made in my personal life, I made -- I'm sorry for them."

He said he'd like to be seen as "somebody who, despite whatever was going on privately, was able to take a city from 'Crime Capital' to 'Safest Large City in America,' from 'Welfare Capital' to 'Best Welfare to Work Program.'"

And he is also the man who is remembered for getting New York City through the worst crisis in its history.

"In my case, maybe because there's a record of acting under pressure and acting in a crisis," he said, "maybe that's something they'll look to and they'll say, 'Well, that's the way we're going to make our decision.'"

Still, Rudy is having trouble keeping his personal life out of the campaign.

Earlier this month, his 21-year-old son, Andrew, told the media that he and his father were estranged and that he had a problem with his stepmother. Rudy has said this is a private matter and said his wife is not to blame for any estrangement with his children.

"This is my responsibility, not hers. She's done everything she can. … She loves all the children," he said.

And as for how he thinks his wife would fare in the White House, Rudy said, "Judith will be a wonderful first lady, because she loves people. That's the key to it. You've got to love and care about people."

The feeling is mutual.

"Rudy would be the best president of the United States. He is a man of incredible character and integrity and … and always has been," Judith said. "He is not only intelligent, but he has an intellectual curiosity, and so he always wants to learn about the world and other people. And that's … that's very important."

He also has, as Walters noted, "a wife who's crazy about him." And Judith agreed.

"That he does," she said, laughing. "That he does."

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