Michael Bloomberg’s dumpster fire of a debate performance in Nevada continued to have repercussions even after the caucuses ended. One of the bones of contention was the revelation that some unknown number of women had signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as part of the resolution of complaints they had made. (Bloomberg claims they concerned “jokes he made” that they didn’t like.) On the debate stage, Elizabeth Warren called him out, saying that the women should be able to speak freely and Bloomberg should release them from the NDAs.
Before long, the billionaire actually conceded the argument… sort of. There were three women under discussion who were specifically under those restrictions and Mike said that they should “contact his office” about a release. But Warren wasn’t going to let it go at that. She responded by saying that that just wasn’t going to be good enough and Bloomberg needed to do much, much more. (Reuters)
“That’s just not good enough,” Warren told reporters while campaigning in Las Vegas on Friday.
“Michael Bloomberg needs to do a blanket release so that all women who have been muzzled by non-disclosure agreements can step up and tell their side of the story in terms of what Michael Bloomberg has done,” she said.
When challenged by Warren at the debate, Bloomberg had said of the non-disclosure agreements: “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”
The only thing that would have made this response better would have been if Warren had thrown in something about having had enough of Bloomberg’s malarkey. (I don’t think Biden has a copyright on that word yet.) So will Bloomberg backpedal even further and toss out an offer for a blanket release? Don’t hold your breath.
What should be obvious at this stage is that Elizabeth Warren isn’t particularly worried about the fates of the individual women in question. Right now the rest of the candidates are in full-blown panic mode over Bloomberg’s dramatic rise in the polls and the disruptive influence he’s having on their standings in the primary. By this stage of the game, we were supposed to be down to basically a two-person race between Sanders and either Biden or Buttigieg if events had followed the standard script. But now Bloomberg is splitting off support from most of them and threatening to shove the crowd further toward a brokered convention. (Which he’s already working to buy by greasing the palms of superdelegates.)
What Warren is doing is shouldering the burden for all of the non-Bloomberg candidates. As a woman, she’s the best suited in terms of optics to go after Mike on the NDA question. She’s managing to paint him as being no better than Trump when it comes to his treatment of and views on women. And it’s not as if Trump doesn’t have his own herd of NDAs out there in the background.
But Bloomberg can’t afford to go the Full Monty on this one. Somebody who’s been around as long as him in positions of influence and power probably has a lot more than just three NDAs out there and a lot more than three women complaining about his behavior. If he just opens the bag, he will be facing an endless series of headlines covering interviews with every former female associate and employee with a story to tell. Even if it doesn’t kill his primary chances, the same stories will be brought up endlessly by the RNC during the general election. And there could be lawsuits aplenty as well.
If I had to guess, I would say that the three NDAs Bloomberg is offering to lift are probably binding women with stories that Mike is pretty sure he can deflect or at least deflate a bit. They might literally be women who were upset about an off-color joke he told. That could be survivable (Trump managed to be elected with worse tales floating around), but if the field expands to potentially dozens of women with more serious allegations, that will not only kill his chances at the White House but will likely follow him for the rest of his life.