Oliver Milman and Maanvi Singh, The Guardian, February 18, 2020
Mike Bloomberg has been plunged into fresh controversy over his comments on race and transgender people, as scrutiny intensifies over the presidential candidate’s past remarks ahead of his Democratic debate debut.
On Tuesday, a 2011 PBS interview resurfaced in which Bloomberg stated that there was an “enormous cohort of black and Latino males” who “don’t know how to behave in the workplace”. And separately, a newly uncovered video from March 2019 showed Bloomberg describing trans rights as being about “some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter”.
The comments re-emerged as the multibillionaire media mogul faces questions over his other past remarks on race and women, and as he secured a presence in the televised Democratic debates for the first time.
A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll published on Tuesday shows Bloomberg with 19% support among Democrats for the presidential nomination, enough to join the debate stage alongside other leading contenders in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
In the PBS interview, Bloomberg, who was then mayor of New York City, said he supported a program to boost employment prospects for minorities and lamented that “blacks and Latinos score terribly in school testing compared to whites and Asians. If you look at our jails, it’s predominantly minorities.”
Bloomberg said some progress had been made but “nevertheless, there’s this enormous cohort of black and Latino males, age, let’s say, 16 to 25, that don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know what their skillsets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace where they have to work collaboratively and collectively”.
The former mayor added that crime in New York City takes place in “minority neighborhoods”, with victims and perpetrators of crime “virtually all minorities”.
Bloomberg has achieved solid polling numbers despite several previous interviews and comments coming to light that have been viewed as highly problematic.
Bloomberg will appear on stage in Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas alongside former vice-president Joe Biden, Sanders, senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg. Fellow billionaire and philanthropist Tom Steyer is still hoping to qualify.
The Democratic National Committee recently changed its rules for how a candidate qualifies for the debate, opening the door for Bloomberg to be on stage and drawing the ire of some candidates who dropped out of the race for failing to make prior stages.
The candidates were previously required to receive a certain number of campaign contributions to qualify, but Bloomberg, who is worth an estimated $60bn, is not taking donations.
The prime-time event will be a stark departure from Bloomberg’s highly choreographed campaign. He has poured more than $300m into television advertising, a way to define himself for voters without facing criticism.