2020

Can only a New Yorker like Bloomberg handle Trump’s bullying?

The former mayor’s campaign had a sharp rebuke for the president.

Michael Bloomberg in January, 2020.

Michael Bloomberg in January, 2020. lev radin/Shutterstock

On Sunday, President Donald Trump threw a slew of insults at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Twitter. He accused him of being a “part of the Fake News,”“getting the DNC to rig the election against Crazy Bernie” and “negotiating … to stand on boxes, or a lift, during the debates.” He reiterated the latter accusation, for which he provided no evidence, during a pre-taped Super Bowl segment with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. 

In a departure from the strategy of other targets of Trump’s insults thus far, who have frequently been put on the defensive – and perhaps a sign that a fellow New Yorker is more accustomed to battling with loudmouth bullies – Bloomberg’s team went on offense. The campaign denied the accusation and called Trump a “pathological liar.” Almost every Democratic candidate has attacked Trump for dishonesty, but then Bloomberg’s team took things a bit further, in a style matching the president’s own. “The president lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan,” Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood said.

Bloomberg’s charges were well-founded, although Trump’s fake tan is smeared – rather than sprayed – bronze-colored makeup, according to the undocumented immigrants who worked as housekeepers at one of his golf clubs. 

Bloomberg’s team was referring to the fact that Trump’s annual physical claims he is 6’3” tall, when photos of the men standing together show he is not taller than former President Barack Obama, who is 6’1”, and that Trump’s driver’s license said he is 6’2”. Inflating Trump’s height by even an inch or two technically made him just shy of the obesity threshold in 2018. (A gain of four pounds meant that in 2019 Trump was obese, even if he is 6’3”.) And then there’s the matter of Trump’s famous orange combover. The president is famously obsessed with not showing his baldness and has reportedly had a scalp reduction surgery to minimize evidence of balding. 

Later in the evening, Bloomberg tweeted out a message congratulating the Kansas City Chiefs on their Super Bowl win, saying it was a “great day for the great state of Missouri.” Mocking Trump for mistakenly saying that the team represented Kansas well. Kansas City is located in Missouri not Kansas, which to the president’s credit is somewhat confusing.

Bloomberg also sent out a press release on Monday morning to announce that he will be opening a campaign office in Kansas City, taking the opportunity once again to hit on Trump’s mistake.

It’s been a while since one of Trump’s political opponents has dared to go toe-to-toe with him. While no one knows if Bloomberg would be as sharp on the draw in real time as he and his staff are online, his response suggests that maybe a veteran of New York City’s combative political and media culture is better prepared for handling Trump. 

Bob Liff, senior vice president at government communications firm George Arzt Communications, says that as a New Yorker – and billionaire – Bloomberg is likely the most threatening candidate to Trump. “Trump is threatened by New Yorkers who know just what a fraud and con man he is, especially when it comes from a real billionaire like Mike Bloomberg,” Liff told City & State over the phone.

Liff says he’s certain that other candidates could also get under Trump’s skin but not quite like Bloomberg. “Bloomberg is unique because he's a New Yorker, because he's a real billionaire and because Trump knows that Bloomberg knows he's a fraud,” he said.

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