While New York City residents are all too familiar with Mike Bloomberg and his various quirky eccentricities (multiple sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits, racism, a tendency toward authoritarianism), the nation at large is still just getting to know the billionaire Democratic presidential candidate as anything more than the soda-ban mayor. And because Bloomberg only entered the race a few months ago, his public vetting has been on overdrive, leaving his campaign with a seemingly endless stream of controversial past comments to try to explain away.
Just in the past week or so, Bloomberg has been hit with multiple videos of him belittling trans issues, a reexamination of his history of sexism in the Washington Post, a clip of him saying that an “enormous cohort of black and Latino males” don’t know how to behave at work, and a semi-misleading edit of him appearing to insult farmers. It can be a lot for individual staffers to keep track of, but then, that’s where talking points come in.
Slate obtained a copy of the official guidance sent to staff at at least one Bloomberg field office yesterday (the Bloomberg campaign has not yet returned a request for comment), which came after a number of staffers “asked for talking points on tough topics,” according to the accompanying email. “This information is not for distribution,” the message adds. “It is for internal awareness so that we are able to address voters’ questions as accurately as possible.”
And here are those talking points in full:
• Our campaign believes we need to unite to defeat Trump in November and that’s why Mike has been traveling across the country and meeting with voters to make his case.
• But the kind of divisive “energy” being displayed by ‘Bernie Bros’ is not going to get us there.
• That’s why we created this video to highlight the divisive nature we are seeing from other campaigns and the need to unite and focus on beating Trump.
• This video was edited by the Trump team to be something it’s not. The Trump team cut off the first part of Mike’s sentence where he said, ‘if you think about the agrarian society [that] lasted 3000 years, we could teach processes.’
• Mike wasn’t talking about today’s farmers at all, and Team Trump is deliberately misleading Americans because Donald Trump’s erratic policies have devastated American farms, including a 20% increase in US Farm bankruptcies last year.
• Donald Trump inherited his [wealth] yet bankrupted businesses in cities around the world. As President, he’s hurting American farms, and he knows that Mike Bloomberg has the skills to fix the problem.
• Here is the full context of Mike’s remarks:
“More and more, if you think about the agrarian society [that] lasted 3000 years, we could teach processes. I could teach anybody, even people in this room so no offense intended, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn, you could learn that [then]. Then you have 300 years of the industrial society. You put the piece of metal on the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow and you can have a job. And we created a lot of jobs. At one point 98% of the world worked in agriculture, today it’s 2% in the United States. Now comes the information economy and the information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology.”
Women in the Workplace
• Virtually all of this has been reported over the past two decades. In any large organization, there are going to be complaints — but Mike simply does not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment, and he’s created cultures that are all about equality and inclusion.
• His opponents tried to use these same attacks against him when he ran for office in 2001. He won that race — and I’m glad he did, because he appointed people like Patti Harris, the first woman to serve as first deputy mayor, and people like Fatima Shama, Janette Sadik-Khan, Rose Gill [Hearn], Carol Robles Roman, Diahann Billings-Burford, Amanda Burden, Linda Gibbs, Kate Levin, and many others.
• He unquestionably improved life for women in New York. Under Mike’s leadership, New York City brought down the rates of domestic violence by 30%. Mike increased the number of certified MWBEs. He worked to increase access to reproductive healthcare. All while creating jobs, improving access to healthcare and fighting climate change.
• Now, his campaign is led by women like Chair Patti Harris and Senior Advisor Brynne Craig and many others.
• His record and agenda for our country are also why he has earned the endorsements of women leaders across the country, including Governor Gina Raimondo; Congresswoman Haley Stevens, Lucy McBath, Stephanie Murphy and Mikie Sherrill, Mayors Breed, [Muriel Bowser], Brown, and women who’ve long been activists on causes like reproductive rights like Jill Lafer.
• Throughout his entire professional life—as a colleague, mayor, business leader, and philanthropist, Mike has sought counsel from women, elevated women, supported women candidates for office, and supported policies that benefit women. I know he cares deeply about these issues because he’s actually worked on them. He’s pro-choice, he supports paid family leave, and believes in and practices equal pay. This isn’t lipservice for Mike, it’s something he prioritizes and he will be a president who will continue to take on these fights.
• Here’s what I know: Mike will be a fantastic president for women, while Donald Trump poses an urgent threat to women. We have to defeat Trump in 2020, and Mike is the candidate to do that.
Specific Response to Washington Post allegations
• As we told the Washington Post, “Mike simply did not say the things somebody wrote in this gag gift, which has been circulating for 30 years and has been quoted in every previous election Mike has been in.
• He did not make any of the statements alleged in the Sekiko Garrison lawsuit. In his testimony in the case, Mike said: “I never said those words and there would be no reason to do so, it’s ridiculous and an outrage.”
• As we told the Post, “Mike openly admits that his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life and some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.”
• Mike understands that the transgender community has been under attack for decades and the advance of rights has not been equal.
• In April 2002, during his first year as mayor, Mike signed a sweeping transgender civil rights bill into law. His company provides comprehensive healthcare coverage for his transgender employees.
• As president, he has a comprehensive plan to secure rights for transgender Americans, including passing the Equality Act, ensuring transgender people have access to affirming healthcare and working to end the crisis of violence against transgender women.
• Mike is running to defeat Donald Trump and reverse the many policies he has implemented that attack the rights of the transgender community.
As far as the farm comments are concerned, the Bloomberg camp was right that the circulated clip cut off the full context of his remarks. But even the addition of the line about agrarian society doesn’t change the fact that Bloomberg was clearly saying he could teach anybody in the room how to farm, as an example of low-skilled, easy-to-learn labor.
The Bloomberg campaign’s counter to his well-documented history of sexism doesn’t fare much better, since the overarching message seems to be that no one should worry about the harassment allegations, because Mike Bloomberg got elected anyway.
The talking points meant to respond to his recently surfaced comments, including one in which he referred to a trans person as “it,” are similarly misleading. While Bloomberg did sign the transgender rights bill in 2002, tepidly signing it was about all he did. From an Associated Press report at the time:
In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he also believed the bill was unnecessary, but that the council’s overwhelming support changed his mind.
“In the past, I expressed the belief that this legislation is extraneous because transsexuals are protected under the current human rights law,” said Bloomberg. “However, considering its strong support in the council, I plan on signing it into law.”
One disadvantage to being a billionaire, it seems, is that people are constantly inviting you to sit in front of cameras and hold forth on various subjects, on which you are confident that your opinions are both bold and welcome. Who knows what else may surface from Bloomberg’s decadeslong history of casually putting his attitudes down for posterity, requiring the damage control arm to swing into action again?
Do you work for the Bloomberg campaign? Have something you’d like to share? Let us know.