Because we’re too busy discussing his racism? Besides, we had this conversation earlier, when Michael Bloomberg first began doing some throat-clearing late last year about a run for the Democratic presidential nomination. That was fourteen months after The Atlantic first raised the issue of Bloomberg’s treatment of women during his career. Jonathan Chait raises it again in the context of the oppo research emerging over Bloomberg’s old defenses of stop-and-frisk.
Bloomberg’s #MeToo issues should create an even bigger problem for him, Chait argues (via Twitchy):
Bloomberg is also going to have to answer for his treatment of women. I think this is going to be a bigger problem for him than stop and frisk. https://t.co/sSCuE5FQRQ
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 13, 2020
Before we get to Chait’s argument about which story is bigger, let’s recall Megan Garber’s initial report in September 2018 about Bloomberg’s office comportment:
In an interview with the paper, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk. And, voicing “doubt” about some of the revelations that have been made in the course of #MeToo, Bloomberg mentions as an example Charlie Rose, who had broadcast his show from a space in Bloomberg’s corporate offices. He declined to say, specifically, whether he believed the many allegations against Rose. “Let the court system decide,” the former mayor said.
What is not fully addressed in the Times article, however—and what is not fully explored in the many similar pieces that consider the current iteration of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions—is a series of stories about him, accumulated over decades, that suggests in the aggregate a distinct pattern when it comes to his treatment of women: reports of disparaging comments made about women’s bodies and appearances. Allegations of a deeply sexist work environment at the company that Bloomberg founded and, for many years, ran. Stories that linger like exhaust in the air every time Mike Bloomberg is mentioned as, potentially, the next president of the United States. …
From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”
Bloomberg denied having made those comments, claiming that he passed a lie-detector test validating the denial but declining to release the results. (He also reportedly left Garrison a voicemail upon hearing that she’d been upset by the comments about her pregnancy: “I didn’t say it, but if I said it, I didn’t mean it.”) What Bloomberg reportedly did concede is that he had said of Garrison and other women, “I’d do her.” In making the concession, however, he insisted that he had believed that to “do” someone meant merely “to have a personal relationship” with them.
Some of this has seeped into the political campaign already, especially Bloomberg’s alleged demand to “Kill it!” Pro-life voters have followed that story, at least. That comment and the “I’d do her” remark made it into the New York Times’ profile of Bloomberg’s potential #MeToo problems last November, along with quite a few others of note, including a 2012 party comment about a party guest of “look at the ass on her.” That, by the way, was while Bloomberg was mayor of the Big Apple and not just a private-sector mogul.
The NYT ran that story as a way to explain Bloomberg’s attempt to pre-empt the attacks Chait suggests now. It seems to have worked, at least until now:
“Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong,” said a spokesman, Stu Loeser, who served as Mr. Bloomberg’s City Hall press secretary and is now advising his prospective presidential bid. “He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.”
Mr. Bloomberg is loath to admit fault, and the statement stops short of an apology. But it signals a recognition among aides that his behavior — little-known outside New York City circles — will face heavy scrutiny should he enter the 2020 presidential race, at a time when questions of gender and workplace conduct have taken center stage.
That’s sufficed for the past three months, even after the eruption of the stop-and-frisk comments. Contra Chait, however, that is the bigger issue. Bloomberg’s alleged #MeToo issues revolve around his personal conduct; the stop-and-frisk issues revolve around Bloomberg’s use of executive authority and civil rights. Both of them are potentially big issues, but the latter has a whole lot more implication for how a potential president would behave.
Whichever team is running the current oppo-research drop on Bloomberg might have more interest in one than another, too. That might tell us something about the source of the stop-and-frisk comments on audio and video lately, although both have been hiding in plain sight for years. Which candidate in the 2020 chase needs to split minority voters away from Bloomberg without raising #MeToo/misogyny visibility too high? Don’t rush to answer that, because … there are multiple correct answers to this question.