On Tuesday afternoon, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to the accusations of racism that followed the release of audio from a 2015 speech in which the former mayor claimed young black men were responsible for 95 percent of murders and in which he called for disarming of the victims though stop-and-frisk policing. President Donald Trump briefly joined in the attacks, tweeting and then deleting the message, “WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!”
In an official statement, Bloomberg flipped the accusation on Trump, accusing him of trying to divide Americans with “racist rhetoric.”
“President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans,” Bloomberg said. He admitted to and apologized for the stop-and-frisk policy, but kept his focus on Trump.
“I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities,” the former mayor said.
I have apologized for taking too long to understand the impact of stop and frisk on Black and Latino communities.
I inherited stop and frisk. In an effort to stop gun violence, it was overused. I cut it back by 95%.
I should have cut it back sooner. https://t.co/nj2hBJcQP6
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 11, 2020
Yet the mayor made his 2015 comments two years after leaving office in New York City. He did not explain why he made those comments despite supposedly having a change of heart during his tenure as mayor (2002-2013).
“But this issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity,” he argued. “I believe we need to end mass incarceration and during my tenure we reduced incarceration by 40% and juvenile confinement by more than 60%. We created the Young Men’s Initiative to help young men of color stay on track for success, which President Obama built on to create My Brother’s Keeper. And we overhauled a school system that had been neglecting and underfunding schools in Black and Latino communities for too long.”
Bloomberg may have intended this Obama name-drop as an appeal to black voters, distracting them from the fact he did not explain why he made those comments in 2015.
The former mayor then proceeded to repeat the false claim that race relations got better under former President Barack Obama but worsened under Trump.
“In contrast, President Trump inherited a country marching towards greater equality and divided us with racist appeals and hateful rhetoric,” Bloomberg charged. “The challenge of the moment is clear: we must confront this President and do everything we can to defeat him. The President’s attack on me clearly reflects his fear over the growing strength of my campaign. Make no mistake Mr. President: I am not afraid of you and I will not let you bully me or anyone else in America. Between now and November, I will do everything I can to defeat you whether I am on the ballot or not.”
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are more satisfied with the state of race relations (36 percent) than they were in January 2017 (22 percent). In 2016, most Americans said race relations got worse under Obama.
Meanwhile, some analysts have predicted that black voters in swing states may buoy President Trump to re-election. Trump had delivered near-record-low black unemployment, rising wages, and criminal justice reform.
Interestingly, black voters seem to have been flocking toward Bloomberg before the released audio. Former Vice President Joe Biden has long dominated among black voters in the Democratic race, but a recent national poll suggested that as black voters sour on Biden, they flock to Bloomberg. These stop-and-frisk remarks may seriously undercut that support.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.