Elizabeth Warren gave Michael Bloomberg quite a welcome to the Democratic primaries — and it didn’t get any better for the multibillionaire after that. Warren ripped Bloomberg for calling women “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” and that was just the appetizer for the Pile-On Mike Night that followed in the Nevada debate.
Oddly, no one seemed interested in pulling out and endorsing Bloomberg last night, especially not Warren:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020
Warren was just warming up, however. Not long after, Bloomberg tried to defend himself on #MeToo issues and highlight his success in promoting women. Warren then demanded to know when Bloomberg would renounce his NDAs in settlements with female employees, and that … did not go well at all as everyone jumped all over Bloomberg’s response:
One debate moment can cause a candidate to slip badly, and Mike Bloomberg’s refusal to release women from non-disclosure agreements struck with his company marked a low point for his nascent candidacy #DemDebate https://t.co/g0ZfjfgUtK pic.twitter.com/OY8f5LyIyb
— POLITICO (@politico) February 20, 2020
WARREN: Yes, I have. And I hope you heard what his defense was. “I’ve been nice to some women.” That just doesn’t cut it. The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?
BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told. And let me just — and let me — there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it.
BIDEN: Come on.
WARREN: So, wait, when you say it is up to — I just want to be clear. Some is how many? And — and when you — and when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that’s now OK with you? You’re releasing them on television tonight? Is that right?
WARREN: Is that right, tonight?
BLOOMBERG: Senator, the company and somebody else, in this case — a man or a woman or it could be more than that, they decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody’s interests.
BIDEN: Come on.
BLOOMBERG: They signed the agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with. (CROSSTALK)
So Bloomberg wants people to believe that the NDAs exist to protect the women? Riiiiiiight. Joe Biden later pulled that argument apart like warm bread, and the audience made clear they weren’t buying it either:
BIDEN: You think the women, in fact, were ready to say I don’t want anybody to know about what you did to me? That’s not how it works. The way it works is they say, look, this is what you did to me and the mayor comes along and his attorneys said, I will give you this amount of money if you promise you will never say anything. That’s how it works.
JACKSON: Mayor Bloomberg, final word to you?
BLOOMBERG: I’ve said we’re not going to get — to end these agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private. (AUDIENCE BOOS)
BIDEN: If they want to release it, they should be able to release themselves. Say yes.
It didn’t get any better for Bloomberg on policy, either. Biden ripped Bloomberg over his stop-and-frisk policy, which Bloomberg had just characterized as a leftover policy from the Rudy Giuliani era. Biden reminded the audience that Bloomberg embraced it for years in defiance of calls to curtail or end it, and he only stopped when the Obama administration intervened:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 20, 2020
BIDEN: Yes, let’s get something straight. The reason that stop and frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea we send them there, a terrible idea. Let’s get the facts straight. Let’s get the order straight. And it’s not whether he apologized or not. It’s the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was a fact of violation of every right people have.
And we are the one, my — our administration sent — sent in people to moderate. And at the very time, the mayor argued against that. This idea that he figured out it was a bad idea, he figured out it was a bad idea after we sent in monitors and said it must stop. Even then, he continued the policy.
HOLT: All right. Mayor, would you like to make a quick response to that?
BLOOMBERG: Yes, I would. I’ve sat, I’ve apologized, I’ve asked for forgiveness, but the bottom line is that we stopped too many people, but the policy — we stopped too many people. And we’ve got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country. There is no great answer to a lot of these problems. And if we took off everybody that was wrong off this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in their careers, there’d be nobody else up here.
And let’s not forget Bloomberg’s fumble on the common touch either, in which he seemingly sneers at TurboTax users. The moderator asks whether Bloomberg will release his taxes soon, a question that Bloomberg had to see coming a mile away, and he delivers not just a Trumpian answer but edges into Marie Antoinette territory — sending Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg into gales of laughter:
BLOOMBERG: Fortunately, I make a lot of money, and we do business all around the world. And we are preparing it. The number of pages will probably be in the thousands of pages. I can’t go to TurboTax. But I put out my tax return every year for 12 years in City Hall. We will put out this one. It tells everybody everything they need to know about every investment that I make and where the money goes. And the biggest item is all the money I give away. And we list that, every single donation I make. And you can get that from our foundation any time you want.
KLOBUCHAR: OK, yeah, I’m just looking at my husband in the front row that has to, like, do our taxes all the time. We probably could go to TurboTax. And the point of this is, I believe in transparency. I had a physical, by the way. It came out well. We might all be surprised if my blood pressure is lower than Mayor Pete’s. That might really shock everyone out there. And I think you should release your records from your physical.
Secondly, when it comes to tax returns, everyone up here has released their tax returns, Mayor. I think — and it is a major issue, because the president of the United States has been hiding behind his tax returns, even when courts order him to come forward with those tax returns. And I think — I don’t care how much money anyone has. I think it’s great you’ve got a lot of money. But I think you’ve got to come forward with your tax returns.
JACKSON: Senator, I want to get to you in a second. Mayor Bloomberg, quick response to Senator Klobuchar?
BLOOMBERG: We’ll releasing them. They’ll be out in a few weeks. And that’s just as fast as I can do it. Remember, I only entered into this race 10 weeks ago. All of my associates here have been at this for a couple of years.
BUTTIGIEG: That’s right, we have. Engaging with voters and humbling ourselves to the backyards and diners.
In reading the transcript, I can’t see a single favorable exchange for Bloomberg the entire night (I was not able to watch the debate live). He seemed strangely unprepared for the onslaught even though he’d managed to get a few months of prep time out of the line of fire. His answer on stop-and-frisk were probably the best he could muster, but his answer on NDAs were dreadful. Even on policy, Van Jones argues, Bloomberg was “tone deaf” and a “disaster”:
WATCH: CNN's Van Jones tears apart Mike Bloomberg's debate performance.
"It was a disaster."
"He was tone-deaf on issue after issue." pic.twitter.com/cC4eAD2T4j
— America Rising (@AmericaRising) February 20, 2020
“He’s got to go back to the woodshed,” Jones concludes, “and get it from his team and come back better next time.” Will that opening really exist, though? Bloomberg doesn’t have to worry about donors drying up so he’s in to stay, but this first impression among engaged Democratic primary voters can’t be so easily undone. The impression of an imperious, “tone deaf” billionaire bureaucrat won’t quickly fade from their minds, not even with Bloomberg’s saturation ad campaign running over the next few weeks. Bloomberg’s threat in the moderate lane might not be entirely over, but it’s almost certainly been greatly reduced.
The bigger question will be whether Bloomberg takes his ball and goes home. He promised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get one of the people on stage elected even if it’s not him. After last night’s savaging, does Bloomberg really want to support any of them?