WASHINGTON – Michael Bloomberg came under fire during his debut appearance at the Democratic debate on Wednesday night, as his fellow presidential hopefuls went after him for the “stop and frisk” policy he promoted as New York mayor. He also was attacked for his wealth and the multiple nondisclosure agreements he signed with various women, allegedly due to sexist remarks.
Pete Buttigieg blamed the Jewish candidate for “buying up the elections,” adding that the party has “got to wake up.”
“We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage, and most Americans don’t see where they fit,” he said. “If they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power… let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat.”
Former vice president Joe Biden went after Bloomberg for his “stop-and-frisk” policy.
“He has not managed his city very well,” he said. “When he was there, he didn’t get a whole lot done. He had stop and frisk throwing close to five million young black men up against the wall.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the front-runner, criticized Bloomberg for the same thing, calling the policy racist for purportedly going after African American and Latino people in “an outrageous way.”
“That is not a way you’re going to grow voter turnout,” he said. “What our movement is about, it’s bringing working-class people together – black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American – around an agenda that works for all of us and not just the billionaire class.”
Bloomberg did not take the attacks lightly. He, too, shot back at fellow candidates, especially his Jewish rival, Sanders.
Bloomberg said Sanders could not beat President Donald Trump in the election.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump,” he said. “You don’t start out by saying, ‘I’ve got 160 million people [for whom] I’m going to take away the insurance plan that they love.’ That’s just not a way that you go and start building the coalition that the Sanders camp thinks that they can do. I don’t think there’s any chance whatsoever – and if he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years, and we can’t stand that.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren attacked Bloomberg for not releasing his tax returns and for allegedly using sexist slurs.
“I would like to talk about who we’re running against: A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians – and no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” she said. “Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk. Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.”
Bloomberg defended his positions and his time as mayor, saying he was not embarrassed by his role as the 108th mayor of New York City. However, he said the stop-and-frisk program did not go exactly as hoped.
“When I got into office, there were 650 murders a year in New York City,” Bloomberg said. “I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. That’s the basic right of everything. And we adopted a policy of stop and frisk. What happened, however, was it got out of control. And when I discovered that we were doing too many stops and frisks, we cut 95% of it.”
He also answered the criticism about him trying to “buy the race,” saying: “All I know is that I’ve been very lucky, made a lot of money, and I’m giving it all away to make this country better – and a good chunk of it goes to the Democratic Party as well.”
He also said he would release his tax returns in the upcoming weeks, adding sarcastically: “I can’t go to turbo tax.”
Bloomberg defended his nondisclosure agreements.
“We have very few nondisclosure agreements,” he said. “None of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like the joke I told. These are agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet, and that’s up to them. They sign those agreements.”
Bloomberg said he could beat Trump in November.
“I think we have two questions to face,” he said. “One is who can beat Donald Trump, and No. 2, who can do the job as they get into the White House? I would argue that I am the candidate that can do exactly both of those things. I’m a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump who comes from New York.
“I was the mayor. I know how to run a complicated city, the biggest, most diverse city in this country. I’m a manager. I knew what to do after 9/11 and brought the city back stronger than ever. And I’m a philanthropist who didn’t inherit his money but made his money, and I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we have ever had. And if I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids,” Bloomberg said.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Bloomberg’s ads are calling his rivals “to get out of the way.” “That is what his campaign said: We should pave the way for him to become the nominee,” she said.
“I have been told as a woman many times to wait my turn and to step aside,” Klobuchar said. “And I’m not going to do that now. And I’m not going to do that because a campaign memo from Mayor Bloomberg said this morning that the only way that we get a nominee is if we step aside for him. I think we need something different than Donald Trump. I don’t think you look at Donald Trump and say, We need someone richer in the White House.”