Bernard Kerik's nanny problem might have proved the least of his troubles if the Bush administration had pressed ahead with its nomination of him to become secretary of homeland...
NEW YORK Bernard Kerik’s nanny problem might have proved the least of his troubles if the Bush administration had pressed ahead with its nomination of him to become secretary of homeland security.
The past few days have seen news reports about a rash of possible personal and professional improprieties on the part of the former New York City police commissioner, including big stock-option windfalls, connections with people suspected of doing business with the mob and, yesterday, allegations he had simultaneous extramarital affairs with two women.
The White House has defended its vetting process, which failed to uncover the fact that Kerik had employed an illegal Mexican immigrant as a nanny without paying employment taxes.
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White House officials said they knew in advance about other disclosures now emerging about Kerik’s background, including alleged extramarital affairs and reported ties to a construction company with supposed mob connections, but had concluded that they were not disqualifying.
The newspaper Newsday reported that investigators conducting a background check of Kerik last week uncovered that the former nominee had been married to a woman he has apparently kept a secret for the past 20 years. Friends of his said they were not aware of the woman, and Kerik did not acknowledge the marriage in his best-selling autobiography, “The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice.”
Instead, he wrote about only two marriages, one to a New Jersey woman named Jacqueline, whom he married in 1983 when he was 28, and one to his current wife, Hala. But Kerik, who withdrew his name from consideration for the nation’s top security post on Friday, was also married to the former Linda Hales in North Carolina.
Citing unidentified sources, the New York Daily News said Kerik had overlapping affairs with Judith Regan, the publisher of his recent memoir, and a city corrections officer. He used the same New York City apartment for liaisons with the women during his 18-month tenure as head of the nation’s largest police department, ending in 2001, the paper said.
Yesterday, Kerik said he wanted to apologize “to anybody who’s been brought into this unnecessarily,” including Regan and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a close friend and business associate who had promoted the former street cop’s Cabinet candidacy.
“What happened between me and the White House is my fault and nobody else’s,” Kerik told reporters outside a consulting firm run by Giuliani. “I’ll deal with it.”
Giuliani earlier refused to discuss allegations about Kerik’s personal life, saying Kerik would “have to answer for himself.” Democrats and Republicans alike predicted that Giuliani, who had pushed Kerik’s candidacy with members of the Bush administration, would take the greatest political heat for the failed nomination.
At the White House, however, officials said the failed nomination would not affect Bush’s relationship with Giuliani, who campaigned for the president and has been a strong supporter.
Kerik, 49, who married his current wife in 1998 and has two children with her, apparently became close with Regan while writing “The Lost Son,” in which he described being abandoned by his prostitute mother.
The relationship first drew scrutiny in 2001 after Kerik reportedly dispatched detectives to question people whom Regan had accused of stealing her cellphone. In 2002, Kerik was ordered to pay a conflict-of-interest fine for using three police officers to do research about his mother for the book.
Other recent reports claim that around the time of the alleged affairs, Kerik accepted unreported gifts of thousands of dollars in cash and other items from associates at a New Jersey construction company while serving under Giuliani, first as corrections chief, then as police commissioner.
Authorities suspect the company, Interstate Industrial Corp., has ties to organized crime.
Kerik said he was unaware of any mob allegations involving Interstate, which has denied any wrongdoing.
The nominee withdrew his name Friday night because, it turned out, he had briefly employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and nanny.
Democrats also were focusing on Kerik’s recent windfall from exercising stock options in a stun-gun company that does business with the Homeland Security Department. He earned $6.2 million from the options received from Taser International.
Compiled from The Associated Press, Newsday, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reports.