They include claims from the 1990s that prior to a male colleague’s wedding, Bloomberg told a group of female employees to “line up to give him a blow job as a wedding present”; that he would regularly direct comments like “look at that nice piece of ass” at women in the office; and that upon learning that a female employee was expecting a baby, he responded: “Kill it!”
Bloomberg, through his representatives, has denied making the “kill it” comment and other comments laid out in at least two lawsuits, but has also acknowledged that he has made comments that do not align with his values.
The renewed criticism comes as the 78-year-old is mounting an unconventional campaign for the White House, choosing to forego the four early states and targeting the delegates-rich Super Tuesday contests and beyond. The billionaire has already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the race, blanketing the country with more than $400 million on television, radio and digital advertisements. Those efforts appear to be working for now: Bloomberg has risen in recent national polls, notably eating into support for former Vice President Joe Biden.
But as Bloomberg’s candidacy gains traction, his decades-long record as a business titan and three terms as mayor of New York City is garnering fresh scrutiny, including his legacy of fostering the deeply controversial policing tactic of “stop and frisk.” And his alleged offensive comments about women could make for particularly charged moments in light of the #MeToo movement.
Democratic Party leaders and allies are confronting uncomfortable questions about Bloomberg’s past conduct, but there have not yet been widespread statements of condemnation against the former mayor. Further complicating matters is the fact that Democrats have been outspoken in calling out the numerous accusations of sexual harassment and assault made against Donald Trump. Trump has denied those allegations.
The Bloomberg campaign is responding to questions about his past behavior in part by highlighting his history of promoting women to senior roles both as a businessman and mayor.
Campaign chairwoman Patricia Harris said as a part of a lengthy statement: “In any large organization, there are going to be complaints — but Mike has never tolerated any kind of discrimination or harassment, and he’s created cultures that are all about equality and inclusion. Anyone who works hard and performs well is going to be rewarded, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or anything else.”
CNN examined two lawsuits that paint a vivid picture of the billionaire as having allegedly condoned and promoted misogyny and sexism in the workplace.
Sekiko Sakai Garrison was a sales representative at Bloomberg LP until she was terminated in May of 1995, and she sued Bloomberg in 1997. The lengthy complaint detailed the many ways in which Garrison said Bloomberg and other male executives at the company sexually demeaned and harassed female colleagues. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said that Bloomberg “did not make any of the statements alleged in the Sekiko Garrison case.”
In that lawsuit, the Bloomberg LP office was described in the suit as a boy’s club where career advancement for women depended heavily on their “sex appeal.” “Wearing short skirts was said by these male executives, and others, to be an advantage for promotion. Women who applied for sales positions were required to meet criteria of sex appeal,” Garrison’s complaint said. “Women sales persons who were less attractive or who were married were ridiculed and new mothers and recently married women lost lucrative portions of their sales territory, were denied business opportunities, had their pay cut and received inferior bonuses as compared to their male counterparts.”
That culture of pervasive harassment stemmed directly from the man at the top of the firm, Garrison alleged.
According to her complaint, Bloomberg so frequently said the words “I’d fk that in a second” in reference to women that it was shortened to “in a second.” Bloomberg also uttered comments like, “That’s a great piece of ass” in the presence of colleagues, she said.
Garrison laid out multiple allegations of Bloomberg directly targeting her. In 1993, Bloomberg purportedly said to Garrison: “You still dating your boyfriend? You giving him good blow jobs?
And when Garrison got engaged around that time, Bloomberg saw her ring and allegedly said: “What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for?”
When Garrison eventually informe