NYT: Talk we must about Bloomberg's big (old) #MeToo problem

If Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg comprise the front for the moderate revolt in the Democratic Party, the other side has its battle plan well in place. Patrick’s past potential abuse of authority emerged almost minutes after his declaration for the race, and just a little while later it was Hizzoner’s turn. The New York Times offered a few of the collected bon mots of Bloomberg circa 1990 this morning, which might have been funny at the time but not so much in the #MeToo era:

One remark attributed to Mr. Bloomberg went like this: “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Another line, purportedly Mr. Bloomberg’s sales pitch for his eponymous computer terminal, said the machine will “do everything,” including oral sex, although a cruder term was used.

“I guess,” Mr. Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

Ah-cha-cha! This is actually old news, as these comments had emerged in 2001 during his mayoral campaign, the NYT notes. The seriousness of 9/11 buried any controversy over them, however, and Bloomberg went on to serve three terms. That may not necessarily have meant a change of heart, Michael Grynbaum posits:

Lawsuits portrayed the early days of his company as a frat house, with employees bragging about sexual exploits. Even after entering politics, Mr. Bloomberg’s cavalier attitude caused trouble: In 2012, the mayor, while admiring a woman at a party, urged two guests to “look at the ass on her.” Just last year, he cast doubt on harassment allegations against Charlie Rose, the disgraced CBS anchor. “I don’t know how true all of it is,” Mr. Bloomberg told The New York Times.

Er … okay. Even in the #MeToo era, these seem like venial sins rather than mortal to the political soul. Is it kind to comment on women’s body parts in casual conversation? Not really, no, but it’s hardly as though doing so makes one a threat or an abuser. Expressing an open mind on allegations without having much evidence either way may be a bit impolitic in this age, but that’s more an indictment of the age’s excesses than Bloomberg.

This is so minor and so old that it raises the question of why the Times decided to recycle it now. “If you have a problem with women,” they quote one Democratic strategist, “you are not going to be the Democratic nominee.” But what evidence exists that Bloomberg has a problem with women? Grynbaum goes on to note that Bloomberg is a big-time and big-ticket donor to Planned Parenthood, appointed women to high-ranking positions in his mayoral administration, and gets high marks from female advisers and colleagues. The only real material for this comes from decades ago, and it would only matter if people believe that no one can improve themselves as they grow older.

It looks like a hit piece intended to be a brush-back pitch in case Bloomberg decides to jump into the race. It’s too lame to be taken seriously, but Team Bloomberg isn’t taking any chances. They have rushed out with a mea culpa, even if it falls a little short of a hair shirt:

“Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong,” former City Hall press secretary Stu Loeser, now an adviser to Bloomberg, told the Times on Wednesday.

“He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.”

That probably won’t suffice with the people who want Bloomberg to stay out of the race but keep sending them money. The rest of us won’t care one way or the other about this NYT “scoop”. There are plenty of reasons to oppose a Bloomberg bid, but a stray comment about a woman’s backside ranks very low among them.