Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a rough time at the Democratic debate answering questions about sexual harassment on his watch.
Asked by the moderator about claims that his company was a hostile workplace for women, Bloomberg deployed several cringey defenses: The only complaints about him concerned bad jokes; other women at his company had a great time; non-disclosure agreements women signed were, in his words, “consensual.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren did not have time for any of it. She continued a long night of savaging the founder of financial services giant Bloomberg LP by casting doubt on his ability to match up against President Donald Trump, who has also been the subject of scores of accusations.
“We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many non-disclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against,” she said.
When first asked by the moderator about claims he’d said, “I would do you in a second,” to a former female employee, Bloomberg said he has no tolerance for sexual misconduct, but then tried to deflect by listing several women he’d employed in high positions or awards his company had received for being a great workplace.
“I hope you heard what his defense was: I’ve been nice to some women,” Warren shot back.
“Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those non-disclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?” Warren pressed him.
Bloomberg said there were “very few” non-disclosure agreements. “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like the joke I told,” he continued.
Warren then asked Bloomberg to commit to answer how many women he had sign non-disclosure agreements at his company and to commit to releasing them from those contracts so they can come forward.
“Are the women bound by being muzzled by you?” She asked. “You could release them from that immediately because, understand, this is not just a question of the mayor’s character, this is also a question about electability.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden piled on, essentially accused Bloomberg of paying hush money to women.
“The way it works is they say, ‘Look, this is what you did to me,’ and the mayor comes along and his attorneys say, ‘I will give you this amount of money if you promise you’ll never say anything,’” Biden said.
But Bloomberg dug in on his assertion that women did not want to come forward.
“We’re not going to end these agreements because they were made consensually,” Bloomberg said, as the debate hall erupted with groans and oohs. “They have every right to expect that they will stay private.”
Moments later, his campaign followed up with a press release touting all their women endorsers and the fact that murders from domestic violence fell under his watch as mayor.
“While virtually all of this has been reported over the past two decades, in any large organization, there are going to be complaints,” according to the release. “Mike simply does not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment, and he’s created cultures that are all about equality and inclusion.”
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks during the Democratic presidential primary debate at Paris Las Vegas on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six candidates qualified for the third Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, which comes just days before the Nevada caucuses on February 22. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)