NEW YORK CITY — Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg says women who are debating whether or not to support him should “just look at the record.”
“I got the right values to get them,” Bloomberg told Yahoo News at his “Women for Mike” kickoff event in New York City Wednesday. The event was promoted as the launch of “a groundswell movement to energize women across the country that support Mike’s commitment to rebuild America and defeat Trump.” It came days before thousands of women take to New York City streets for the annual Women’s March.
Women are looking at Bloomberg’s record as the founder and head of his eponymous media company. At least 17 women, ABC News reported shortly after the former New York mayor entered the presidential race last fall, have “taken legal action against the company over the past three decades, with three of the cases specifically naming Bloomberg for his role in the company’s culture.”
Bloomberg repeatedly faced allegations of making sexist comments to and about women as head of the global financial news company, fostering a “frat-like culture.”
“The comments attributed to Bloomberg in court records are echoed in a gift book he received from colleagues in 1990: a compilation of his alleged quotes. The booklet contained alleged comments such as, “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive],” and ‘If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales.’”
In response to the controversy, Democratic rival and front-running female candidate Elizabeth Warren called on the billionaire newcomer to “answer for” his controversial statements.
Bloomberg’s spokesman Stu Loeser issued a statement about the mogul’s crude remarks, saying, “Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.”
Similarly, President Trump, whose relationships with women have long been under scrutiny, launched a “Women for Trump” coalition last July.
Trump faced a fierce backlash after a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording of him bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent was leaked in October 2016. Still, Trump won the election with the support of a majority of white women and hopes to harness their votes again this year.
Bloomberg’s event was attended by about 1,200 people in the ballroom of the Sheraton New York hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where he had celebrated his third mayoral victory.
“All of my success in life, everything I’ve done, is thanks to the women around me,” Bloomberg said. Speakers, including actress Lorraine Bracco and his longtime companion Diane Taylor, pointed to the former mayor’s record on issues important to Democratic voters, including climate change, gun control and education.
Tanya Ross-Willis was one of the hundreds of women shouting, in unison, “I like Mike,” over a playlist of Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Whitney Houston.
“I don’t really do politics, but I love Mike. He’s down to earth, he’s real,” Ross-Willis told Yahoo News before she was tapped to go on stage and stand behind Bloomberg as he spoke at the podium.
Ross-Willis, who was born and lives in Harlem, where Bloomberg’s campaign opened its first field office in New York last week, said she had hoped for a long time for Bloomberg to run for president. “I like the fact that he knows he’s rich, but doesn’t act like it,” Ross-Willis said, pointing out that the billionaire has been seen commuting by subway.
“There is no other candidate” she can imagine supporting, she said.
Samantha Gellert, a business owner, expressed the same loyalty. Gellert worked for Bloomberg in the 1990s, volunteered for his mayoral campaign and the day after he announced his presidential bid signed up to support her former boss.
“He gave me my first real job,” she told Yahoo News. Starting at 24 years of age, Gellert said she worked for the Bloomberg firm in New York, London and Italy, and hadn't experienced firsthand the misogyny some women say was common at the company.
She attributed her successful career “1,000 percent” to Bloomberg, and said she trusts he’ll make a better president than Trump based on his experience as a business leader.
“He has a proven track record as a businessman and entrepreneur and mayor of the biggest city in the United States,” Gellert added. “And he's a global icon.”
Another supporter, Carmen Gandulla, was invited to the campaign event through a female friend who currently works at Bloomberg. She was familiar with the reports about Bloomberg’s sexist comments, but said, “we all have histories.”
“If someone can walk the path of forgiveness, apologize, and lead in that way, then we've made a lot of progress,” she said. “Mike is able to deliver a confidence that we need.”
For Gandulla, rallying behind Bloomberg for president is a smart business decision.
"The people who voted for Trump made a business decision. If this [election] is a business decision, then [supporting Bloomberg] is the best decision to beat Trump,” she said, adding, “I vote with my heart and my pocket.”
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