Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire former Republican, is widely expected to have a tough time winning over African-Americans to his Democratic presidential campaign and, so far, his charm offensive has been more offensive than charming.
The first strike came when Bloomberg said that “nobody asked” him about the city’s use of stop-and-frisk until he launched his presidential bid – which many were quick to point out is far from the truth.
In a “CBS This Morning” segment that aired on Friday, Gayle King questioned Bloomberg about why he suddenly decided to apologize for encouraging the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic, which he was a strong proponent of while mayor. “Well, nobody asked me about it till I started running for president, so c’mon.” Bloomberg responded.
Former NYC Mayor @MikeBloomberg tells @GayleKing "nobody asked" him about stop & frisk until he started running for president.— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 6, 2019
"I'm sorry. I apologize. Let's go fight the NRA and find other ways to stop the murders and incarceration. Those are things that I'm committed to do." pic.twitter.com/ww1pJPraBt
Multiple political journalists were quick to point out that Bloomberg’s claim is false.
This is a lie. We asked Mayor Bloomberg to take part in our doc about Stop and Frisk about six years ago. He declined. The doc aired on CNN in 2014 or 15. https://t.co/DN8h5ohCAw— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) December 6, 2019
This is simply not true. https://t.co/la2SwWxLvf— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) December 6, 2019
Bloomberg claims no one asked him about Stop and Frisk till he started running for president. This is not true. https://t.co/6cCMlUsKh5— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 6, 2019
Bloomberg regularly defended stop-and-frisk while mayor, including when a civil rights lawsuit challenged the practice in 2013. A federal judge eventually deemed the tactic illegal – a decision that the then-mayor harshly criticized. Bloomberg has also been questioned many times about stop-and-frisk since leaving City Hall.
As recently as January, Bloomberg defended the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk, saying that "the result of that (stop-and-frisk) was, over the years, the murder rate in New York City went from 650 a year to 300 a year when I left."
It’s hard to see Bloomberg’s about-face on a policing tactic that he has vehemently defended for more than a decade as anything other than an attempt to win over Democratic voters. That’s certainly how left-leaning news outlets see it. “Friday’s interview, which came shortly after his campaign released a typo-ridden criminal justice reform plan, is likely to fuel suspicions that Bloomberg isn’t serious about addressing elements of his record that trouble civil rights and police reform advocates,” writes Inae Oh of Mother Jones.
That’s not the only portion of Bloomberg’s “CBS This Morning” segment that angered viewers. King also brought up U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s concerns about the national Democratic presidential debate slated for December possibly being devoid of any people of color, asking Bloomberg whether this lack of diversity would bother him. The former mayor responded by saying that he feels Booker is “very well-spoken” and has a lot of great ideas.
Bloomberg quickly came underfire for referring to the senator – a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law graduate – as “well-spoken,” because describing accomplished people of color, especially African-Americans, as articulate of is considered at best condescending. Some see it as a racist statement, as it’s arguably predicated on the stereotype that most people of color are not well-educated or eloquent.
“It’s sort of stunning at times that we are still revisiting these sort of tired tropes,” said Booker, responding to Bloomberg’s comments on the podcast Signal Boost, on Friday. The senator also said he hoped the former mayor would make a point to consider his comments and that it is “problematic” that many people still do not see why using that type of language is offensive.
NEXT STORY: Rep. Jerry Nadler sheds the ghost of trials past