Rudy Giuliani Is Turning to the Christian Right for Help With His Bills

In a suburban Detroit church, he warmed up the crowd by calling Fani Willis a “ho.”

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Washington, Dec. 15, 2023. Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Rudy Giuliani has been having a rough go of things. Since trying to help former President Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results, “America’s Mayor” has been indicted in Arizona and Georgia, New York suspended his license to practice law, and he’s facing disbarment in Washington, DC. In December, a jury hit him with a $148 million verdict in a defamation suit filed by two Georgia election workers who Giuliani had falsely accused of fraud. His former lawyer has been suing him for more than $1 million in unpaid legal fees. Even his ex-wife has said he owes her money. As a result, shortly after the verdict in Georgia, the former New York City mayor filed for bankruptcy.

Facing such financial and professional ruin, Giulani has taken a well-trodden path to redemption: turning to far-right Christians for aid. Last Friday night, “America’s Mayor” joined an all-star lineup of self-proclaimed prophets, MAGA luminaries, and other election deniers on a stop of the ReAwaken America tour. Several thousand true believers had convened at Grace Christian Church outside of Detroit for two days of nonstop conspiracy theories, extreme political rhetoric, and a few baptisms in the parking lot.

There, Giuliani offered up the requisite red meat in exchange for the opportunity to beg for money from the assembled faithful. In an expletive-laden speech from the pulpit, he complained about going bankrupt, bashed a judge on one of his cases, and called the Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis a “ho,” eliciting cheers and laughter from the Christian crowd. “I’m not calling her ‘FAAAHni,’” he said, mocking the pronunciation of her name. “I could drop the ‘ho’ part if she’d just quit and go away, but to me, if you spell your name F-A-N-I, your name is Fanny.” Willis is currently prosecuting Giuliani for allegedly helping Trump try to overturn the 2020 election results.

The 80-year-old former prosecutor claimed falsely that the New York jury that found Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records did not issue a unanimous verdict. (It did.) “We’ve become a communist country!” he exclaimed, sounding like Grandpa Simpson. “We’re a dictatorship!” He then pretended to be a demented President Joe Biden, wandering the stage in search of a phantom chair to sit in.

Giuliani is partly responsible for convincing many people in the room that the 2020 election had been stolen from Trump, that voting machines are corrupt, and that Michigan’s election in particular had been riddled with fraud. But last week, he urged the swing-state crowd to get out there and vote in November anyway. “My God, this is the most important election ever!” he said. “You have got to vote early. If it’s too big they can’t rig it.” The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

After Giuliani finished, conference organizer Clay Clark told attendees, and the 1 million viewers he said were watching the livestream, that now was the moment for them to dig deep to help the persecuted Trump ally. On big screens across the sanctuary, he put up the link to Giuliani’s legal defense fund page at the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo. The page was created by Jackson Lahmeyer, a pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who also was a featured ReAwaken speaker. Lahmeyer seems to share Giuliani’s feelings about Black women. On Saturday afternoon, Lahmeyer tweeted, “Joe + the Hoe needs to be EVICTED from the White House.”

The legal defense fund, which started with about $45,000 before Giuliani’s talk, had raked in about $15,000 more by Sunday morning. But the online donations may dwarf the cash coughed up by some of the 3,300 people who’d bought tickets for the event. As the praise music surged, volunteers passed fried-chicken-dinner-sized plastic buckets down the aisles, and people tossed in piles of cash. I’d seen a similar effort to pass the collection plate at a 2022 ReAwaken event in Pennsylvania, only that time the beneficiary was Trump adviser Roger Stone. In 2019, a jury had found Stone guilty of seven felony counts, including lying to Congress. Trump pardoned him, but his legal entanglements hadn’t ended there. When he arrived in Pennsylvania, he had recently settled a case with the Justice Department and agreed to pay $2 million in unpaid income taxes and penalties.

Since the spring of 2021, ReAwaken America has been a refuge for Trump allies with money problems. The tour itself is partly the brainchild of one of them, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. One of the show’s biggest stars, the disgraced general hooked up with promoter Clark in 2021, not long after Trump pardoned him in 2020 after he had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians during the 2016 campaign. Regular ReAwaken speakers also include Eric Trump, anti-vax doctors, and election deniers like MyPillow guy Mike Lindell, whose products are always featured prominently in the exhibit hall along with an assortment of Trump merch and nano-silver toothpaste.

Over the weekend, Clark gave the crowd credit for the full $1.3 million that Trump’s former National Trade Council director Peter Navarro has raised on GiveSendGo for his legal defense. Navarro has been a regular on the tour but had to miss the one in Michigan because he’s currently serving a four-month prison sentence for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena.

The events, with stops in places like Branson, Missouri, or Las Vegas, are popular with QAnon proponents and have a distinctly Christian nationalist flavor. In Detroit, a ReAwaken minister put a blow-up baptismal font (an inflatable Coleman spa) in the parking lot next to a taco truck, and efficiently dunked some attendees. (Giuliani was not one of them.) End-times prophets who believe that Trump is some sort of Messiah pad the packed schedule.

The people I spoke to in Michigan were a modest bunch. Many were retired. Others were disabled, or veterans. They were certainly a lot poorer than Giuliani, whose bankruptcy filings indicated at least $11 million in assets, including his $3.5 million Florida condo and his $6 million New York City apartment. Even so, one retired federal employee told me she’d thrown twenty bucks in the bucket to help him out.

Nonetheless, these are the people Giuliani is leaning on to pay his bills. Facing the possibility of jail time, disbarment, and financial ruin, he has beaten a path to the Christian right’s prosperity preachers, whose wellspring of love for sinners seems bottomless—so long as they’re not gay, trans, or Trump critics. In April, he appeared on the Rumble show of “prophet” Julie Green. She recently prophesied that Trump would win his New York criminal trial and frequently suggests the Angel of Death will smite Trump’s political enemies, or at least give them boils.

Green has been at this for a while. Over the years, she has suggested that Nancy Pelosi drinks the blood of children and that Joe Biden is actually dead and being played by an actor (a shockingly common belief among ReAwaken attendees I met in Michigan). The zero percent accuracy rate of Green’s prophecies has not kept her from a regular spot on the ReAwaken America tour. On her show, Green read Giuliani a message she said she’d gotten from God two years ago saying that he would be “vindicated” for his work overturning the election, and then she made an appeal for donations to his legal defense fund.

ReAwaken America and religious-right platforms do not seem like natural venues for Giuliani, who is Catholic but has never been particularly religious in public. His string of affairs and broken marriages resembles Trump’s, and his vehement public denials have failed to put rumors of a drinking problem to rest. Like Trump, the Italian-American East Flatbush native isn’t really fluent in the language of evangelicals. The ReAwaken tour has been going on for three years, but this seems to have been his first appearance.

Giuliani’s turn to the Christian right seems driven largely by the failure of his other fundraising efforts rather than any spiritual awakening. The Giuliani Defense superPAC, one of his legal defense funds, has raised less than $800,00, despite the $100,000-a-plate fundraiser Trump hosted in September for his former lawyer at his New Jersey golf course.

The retirees and disabled veterans who earnestly contributed $10 or $20 to his legal defense fund during the ReAwaken America event may not have been aware that despite his pleas of poverty, Giuliani’s lifestyle has remained wildly profligate. In January, he had laid out budget in bankruptcy court to cap his spending. This austerity plan allowed him to spend $43,000 a month—an amount about equal to the entire annual income of the average two-person Michigan household. Court filings showed he couldn’t even stick to that; in January alone, he spent more than $120,000 on Uber trips, Amazon purchases, and his reported girlfriend’s credit card bills, among other things.

In late May, in a scathing filing in the bankruptcy case, lawyers for Giuliani’s creditors asked the court to appoint a trustee to seize control of his finances. For the past five months, they alleged, he’d done little more than file “false and misleading financial reports” while refusing to even start selling off some of his assets, like his Florida condo, for which he paid $16,000 in fees in April alone. He even paid dues for a Palm Beach Yacht Club membership, money the creditors believe should be going to them.

In June, Giuliani’s lawyers opposed the appointment of a trustee, citing his storied record as a former US Attorney and mayor of New York City. “He does not intend to hide assets or mislead anyone,” they wrote, insisting that any delays with the bankruptcy reorganization were due to his effort to get the $148 million judgment against him overturned on appeal. As for the creditors’ suggestion that Giuliani get a real job to help pay the bills, his attorneys scoffed, “Maybe the Committee has a suggestion on who would hire an 80-year-old disbarred attorney.”

Rather than getting a real job, Giuliani seems intent on milking the Christian faithful. But even they may have had enough of the man who brought the country the Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference after the 2020 election. By Wednesday night, the GiveSendGo had only raised a total of $61,000. In the end, Giuliani may have to finally hit up the one other person most responsible for his current financial misery: Donald J. Trump.

Despite Giuliani’s significant advocacy for Trump after the 2020 election, the former president and notorious deadbeat never paid him for his services. Giuliani told the creditors in his bankruptcy case that he is owed about $2 million for his legal work on Trump’s behalf. But he has reportedly been reluctant to go after Trump for the fees for fear of alienating the MAGA audience that is keeping him flush. Lawyers for his creditors, however, have no such qualms. They see those legal fees as a potential asset, and they’ve indicated that they may take legal action against the former president to collect.

In the meantime, Giuliani may have to remain on the televangelist circuit. Fortunately for him, the ReAwaken America tour, which was supposed to end this month, has added one last stop in North Carolina in October. Maybe this time Giuliani will get baptized. After all, it might help with the fundraising.

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

GREAT JOURNALISM, SLOW FUNDRAISING

Our team has been on fire lately—publishing sweeping, one-of-a-kind investigations, ambitious, groundbreaking projects, and even releasing “the holy shit documentary of the year.” And that’s on top of protecting free and fair elections and standing up to bullies and BS when others in the media don’t.

Yet, we just came up pretty short on our first big fundraising campaign since Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting joined forces.

So, two things:

1) If you value the journalism we do but haven’t pitched in over the last few months, please consider doing so now—we urgently need a lot of help to make up for lost ground.

2) If you’re not ready to donate but you’re interested enough in our work to be reading this, please consider signing up for our free Mother Jones Daily newsletter to get to know us and our reporting better. Maybe once you do, you’ll see it’s something worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate