There was ample substantive policy discussion at this morning’s Crain’s NY Business debate between the five men vying for the GOP line in the NYC mayor’s race, but that was largely overshadowed by a verbal tiff between the moderator, Crain’s columnist Greg David, and former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who took offense when David referred to his former boss, Rudy Giuliani, as a “jerk.”

Lhota, who served as a deputy mayor under Giuliani at City Hall, chastised David from the podium, saying it was inappropriate for him to “disparage the 107th mayor of the city of New York with the words that you used when you look at what he did during those eight years in office where you saw, you actually saw the economy expanding, jobs expanding, I imagine even…the number of Crain’s subscriptions actually increased very nicely in that period of time.”

And Lhota, who has spent a lot of time since he entered the mayor’s race trying to determine the right balance between embracing the Giuliani legacy and establishing himself as his own man, went still further after the forum, saying:

“Using a pejorative to describe Rudy Giuliani in a forum like this is unfortunate. But that’s what columnists do, they have the right to say whatever they want, and Greg did say whatever he wants. I think he was wrong.”

David, agreed that his choice of words was wrong, saying in a statement:

“”In retrospect, jerk was the wrong word because I offended some members of the audience and I should not be doing that. Just as important, the word allowed Joe Lhota to blast me rather than answer one of the important issues of the campaign – does he present the return of Rudy. So I failed on two counts.”

Incidentally, the Lhota/David dust-up wasn’t the only uncomfortable moment of this morning’s forum.

Adolfo Carrion was grilled about this morning’s Daily News story about a PAC he established during his Bronx borough president days that was funded by developers and others who had business dealings with his office and might have violated campaign finance laws.

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