Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk Past Comes Back to Haunt Him

February 14, 2020

Mainstream media is trying to gloss over Bloomberg's racist record, and they're willing to discredit independent journalists to do it.

Mainstream media is trying to gloss over Bloomberg's racist record, and they're willing to discredit independent journalists to do it.


Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg attends a campaign event at Buffalo Soldiers national museum in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Go Nakamura

Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.

Mike Bloomberg: … 95% of your murders, and murderers and murder victims, fit one of them. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it on to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city [inaudible 00:00:17]. And cops in minority neighborhoods, yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way to get the guns out of the kids hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them.

Kim Brown: Thanks for joining us here at The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore. That’s former mayor of New York City and current democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg during a 2015 Aspen Institute speech giving a perfectly reasonable and racist explanation as to why the policies of stop and frisk were acceptable during his tenure as mayor. And that’s just one of a handful of clips hidden in plain sight unearthed by independent journalist Benjamin P. Dixon that could very well kneecap the presidential aspirations of the billionaire oligarch.

Ben is a co-founder of TheNorthstar.com. He’s also founder of The Progressive Army and he’s host of The Benjamin Dixon Show. You can find him on YouTube, subscribe to his channel. He joins us here today from Atlanta. Welcome, Ben.

Ben Dixon: Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Kim Brown: And we’re also joined in studio today by our own Real News correspondent Jaisal Noor who has followed the policing practices of Michael Bloomberg during his time as New York’s mayor. Jaisal, I know you’ve been at that for a number of years. Thank you for being here.

Jaisal Noor: Absolutely.

Kim Brown: All right. Well Ben, we’re going to get started with you because the clips that you have found has received millions of plays, thousands of retweets since you first posted them February 10th and we’re going to get to those momentarily, but Ben, I wanted to ask you about the reaction that you’ve received from mainstream outlets, including this clip that aired on CNN.

Cristina Alesci: Here’s the thing, important context here. We don’t have the full tape. So this is obviously snippets that have been released. The podcaster and the writer that released the sound is clearly a Bernie supporter. If you look at his Twitter feed, he’s very anti Bloomberg. He is promoting a hashtag, #BloombergisaRacist. We don’t know how he got the sound to begin with. So lots of questions are being asked, especially on the timing of this, as you noted in your introduction. A poll yesterday shows Bloomberg rising in the polls and particularly strong support in the African American community. He polled at 22% just behind Joe Biden at 27%. So the timing here and the mission here all calling into question-

Speaker 6: But we also know …

Kim Brown: All right. That was Cristina Alesci. She is a former Bloomberg Media employee who worked for Bloomberg media prior to coming to CNN. And then the lack of self awareness is just laughable at this point. But let’s answer some of her questions, though, Ben. What was your motive? Where did you find this clip? And what of the timing of this release?

Ben Dixon: Okay. I mean, it’s hilarious because it was … If you want to blame anybody, blame the universe. I decided Friday that I wanted to turn the attention of my podcast to Michael Bloomberg because I felt some kind of way about a billionaire oligarch being able to buy his way into this election without any examination by the public. And so Monday morning when I do my normal research every morning, I get up, I get some coffee, get the kids out to school, I do my research. And I started looking for content on Mike Bloomberg. I stumbled onto one video that discussed this, what they considered to be a racist speech against the second amendment right of African Americans. So obviously there was a conservative spin there. And I followed the words.

They didn’t have video. They didn’t have audio. All the had was a couple of excerpts. And so I typed the excerpts into Google. I mean, this is really basic stuff, right? So if she wants to know how we did it, it’s Research 101. It’s like high school level research that I did to find this. I just took the due diligence of editing the quality of the audio. If you hear the original, it’s very difficult to hear. So I took my time, transcribed it. I put the video together, I cleaned up the audio, and then I spent hours just pushing it to everyone in my network. So as to the reason when, it fell in my lap Monday. The why, because everyone needed to hear it.

Kim Brown: Jaisal, it’s shocking that the so called motives of a black man, an independent journalist are being scrutinized more so than the actual words that came out of Mike Bloomberg’s mouth.

Jaisal Noor: Absolutely. And you just see the differential that an oligarch gets in the media. When we’re talking about the harmful policies he is inflicting on black and brown working people in New York City, hundreds of thousands a year, people whose lives were affected who lived under terror under Bloomberg. And then they’re so easily dismissed by someone, as you mentioned, who worked for Bloomberg. It just gives you more reason to be skeptical of how the corporate media, these big outlets [inaudible 00:05:12] mention that Bloomberg’s already spent $350 million on advertising. He’s bankrolling these networks with advertising. He’s bought his way onto the debate stage. And it just makes you need to be really skeptical of how the media’s portraying this, how the democratic party is dealing with Bloomberg, and just keep a really razor focused lens on his behavior and his record.

Kim Brown: And what’s interesting is as Jaisal said, you have to keep an eye on these corporate media outlets that obviously have interest in supporting someone like a Mike Bloomberg. I mean, we saw this retrospectively from Donald Trump where every cable news outlet would cut to Trump’s rallies live with no sense of critique or no sense of in depth analysis, but then you clip even got Donald Trump’s attention in a since deleted tweet in reaction to your video. Trump said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Bloomberg, wow, what a total racist. This is almost like the Spider-Man meme. Are these guys pointing directly at each other like, “No, I see you. No, it’s you. I see myself”? So how has that been since Trump got ahold of it, and I’m sure it’s taken off tremendously.

Ben Dixon: Yeah. So I mean, at the point that Trump retweeted it, it was already at 3.4 million, I believe. And now it’s at roughly 8 point … I don’t know. And then if you combined Facebook and Twitter, I’m sorry, Facebook and YouTube, it’s probably over 10, 11, 12 million. And so the president tweeting it out certainly brought more attention to it, but I think the important part is is that … Well, two things. One, he deleted it because he had a lack of self awareness, right? If there’s anybody racist in the conversation, it would be both of them together, because they both agreed on stop and frisk, right? And he promoted it before and I think that that’s why he deleted it, in addition to the fact that if you read down in my thread, I circled around and came around to criticizing Donald Trump as well. So there’s simple reasons why he would’ve deleted that. But then second of all, the President of the United States has no ground to stand on.

Kim Brown: Absolutely. And Michael Bloomberg has since responded via Twitter and a statement posted on his website where he said, “President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans. I inherited the policy 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.”

So Jaisal, can we count the lies in that statement? Where do we even begin there?

Jaisal Noor: Yeah. Bloomberg is trying to rewrite history. While he did inherit stop and frisk from Giuliani, he greatly accelerated it. He massively expanded several times over. There was about 90,000 stops in Giuliani’s last term. At its peak, it was close to a million people a year under Bloomberg’s term. The reason that stop and frisk was pared down, and he is right that it had to end, it was because of massive protest, massive civil disobedience, and court decisions which found that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, it was racist, and the other thing was it was ineffective. It didn’t work. And once the public was presented with this information, the public opinion turned. The city council stepped in. And so by the end of Bloomberg’s turn, those numbers did go down. But to rewrite history in this way is completely disingenuous.

Kim Brown: And Ben, I’m sure you have been literally bombarded on social media and other places about people who had firsthand experience with these police practice, these policies to stop and frisk, virtually during most of the Bloomberg administration in New York City. Can you tell us about some of the stories that people have told you about how stop and frisk and Michael Bloomberg specifically impacted their lives?

Ben Dixon: Yeah. That’s the thing about this that makes this, this is so much bigger than even his presidential candidacy is the lives that were affected by his decisions, his worldview. The audio really conveys to us that this is something that Michael Bloomberg deeply believes, he’s thought about it, he’s rationalized it, and then when you hear the stories of all the individuals who were hurt by it, you see the magnitude of his thought, of his belief, of his worldview. People have sent me stories about just being a rite of passage as a teenager, they knew that at some point, multiple points, they would be stopped and frisked. It didn’t matter whether they were walking down the street or whether they were in a restaurant. I’ve heard stories of kids being pulled out of bodegas and thrown up against a wall.

And literally the language that Michael Bloomberg used here is the precise language of their procedures of throwing them up against the wall, and those are the stories that I recognize the most, that touch the most, are the kids who remember being thrown up against the wall by these police. And for Michael Bloomberg to say exactly that, that shows you the depth of how much he thought this through. He thought this through from his logical justification for it all the way through the implementation of throwing kids up against a wall. And so his apology does not match up to the depth and consideration that he gave this racist policy.

Kim Brown: And that’s a point that I also wanted to raise with you, because he did say he apologized. He said he has taken responsibility. Has he? And what does that look like? What does Michael Bloomberg taking responsibility for stop and frisk even begin to do some sort of restoration to the communities that were impacted by this? That sounds like shenanigans.

Ben Dixon: Right. The apology, like you stated out, he started the statement. It’s not an apology, it’s a statement. He started it off by pointing to Donald Trump. And I know Donald Trump is a white supremacist in chief. We need to get rid of him in November, absolutely. But he had nothing to do with Michael Bloomberg’s words. Michael Bloomberg has to own this and he did not own it. Yesterday in a press conference, he said that this was five years ago as if that was enough time between then and now to justify or to show that it was so long ago that it’s not as relevant. But more importantly, he said that he did not govern based on this. And I’m like, [inaudible 00:11:47], that’s literally exactly how you govern. What you said in Aspen in 2015 is precisely how you governed down to the tee.

And so yesterday, he showed not only is he not giving, he’s not sincere in his apology, he’s being downright deceitful, right? He’s trying to deflect and be deceitful and say, “Listen, I’ve changed, I’ve grown. That wasn’t …” At the same time, he’s trying to say, “That wasn’t me.” But yes, that was you and what you’re saying now is that you don’t want to take accountability for it. What does it look like? What does he need to do? He has to show us that he has given thought and consideration to how wrong he was to the same extent that he gave consideration in that speech. If you listen to that speech, he thought this thing through, methodically. Logically. Reason. His reasoning there, he took his time and just made a coherent case, a bigoted coherent case in his own mind. And yet he simply says, “I’m sorry, that was a long time ago.”

If what he did and what he said in 2015 were the Atlantic Ocean, his apology is analogous to a cup of water and it’s insufficient.

Kim Brown: Come through, Ben Dixon. So Jaisal, we were talking about how first of all, you can’t turn on television, you can’t cut on the radio, you can’t cut on your social media feed without seeing an ad for Michael Bloomberg. He is spending so much money on this campaign.

Jaisal Noor: A million bucks a day.

Kim Brown: How much?

Jaisal Noor: A million bucks a day on advertisement. On Facebook.

Kim Brown: Just on Facebook alone, right? So had this happened or this particular type of nugget been unearthed of a non billionaire democratic presidential nominees, it would affect them more greater because perhaps their fundraising would take a hit, they would take a hit in the polls. But Michael Bloomberg has the resources to power through-

Jaisal Noor: He’s not doing any fundraising. He’s not accepting money.

Kim Brown: Exactly. But that’s what I mean. He has the resources to power through any type of scandal and keep his political and advertising machine operating as much as it ever was. So what do we think the impact could be here, especially as we head towards South Carolina and ever more so towards Super Tuesday with primary states that are more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire where this could affect him at the polls?

Jaisal Noor: We know that a lot of people, working people in this country don’t have the time or energy to necessarily keep up with the election, all the candidates. We all know that, we all do what we can. But in Bloomberg’s case, he’s able to flood the airwaves, flood the Internet, flood the radio so much in places where there is no other media presence, there’s no other candidates hitting these states, especially the major Super Tuesday states outside of Texas and California, that he’s up already, he’s gained something like 15 percentage points in the polls among black voters in places like South Carolina. So he’s making a huge impact, just spending all this money, putting out ads saying that he was … making it seem like him and Obama were allies when that’s not the case. He didn’t endorse Obama in 2008 and he attacked him 2012 when he gave him sort of a half endorsement. But this is why it’s important that we have independent journalists like Ben Dixon that are putting this out there, using social media to get the word out, because we know that the corporate media isn’t going to hold him accountable in the ways that are necessary.

Kim Brown: Absolutely. Ben, I wanted to ask you, what impact do you think this will have amongst black democratic primary voters who are not quite in lockstep with any candidate at this point? I don’t think any candidate can claim that they have the black vote in their pocket. Nobody does. Even in 2016, Hillary Clinton could lay claim to a good chunk of the black electorate. That is not the case in 2020. So what does this do for Bloomberg is anything and does this give anybody else a bump?

Ben Dixon: It really depends on the level of saturation of this clip. So yesterday I heard on The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha God that they played the clip and they gave him Donkey of the Day. So at that point, when it hit that threshold, I’m like, “Okay, this is saturating down into the culture. This is saturating down into everyone’s everyday life, people who aren’t paying attention to politics.” Now because of that, I would venture to say that he’s going to take a little hit here in the African American vote. Can it compete with the number of ads that he’s running in the Super Tuesday states? I don’t know. We’ll have to see the polling. But the level of saturation of this clip is getting to the point where it can actually have an impact. Who does it benefit? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. There’s been such a good job done against Bernie Sanders with regard to the African American vote even though he’s doing good with the young Millennials. Joe Biden is on his way out. Elizabeth Warren never really scored significantly with the black vote. There’s still room for someone.

I mean, obviously Pete Buttigieg is at zero percent in primary voters, black primary voters. And Amy Klobuchar has a big issue that’s lingering out there in Minneapolis. So I’m not sure who’s going to come in and actually pick up the slack here, but we’ll see.

Kim Brown: Well, I can tell you, Ben, that many close observers of this race are grateful for you bringing this to light. You made the mainstream outlooks look extremely silly, sir. You have possibly done a dent into Michael Bloomberg’s campaign by tweeting it out to your followers. So I mean, on behalf of us as a member of the progressive independent media family, we want to thank you for doing what you did. And we want you to know that it is greatly appreciated and you’ve done a service to this country. So thank you.

Ben Dixon: Oh, wow. Thank you. I appreciate those kind words. Thank you so much.

Kim Brown: You’re welcome. We’ve been speaking with Benjamin P. Dixon. He has a podcast. He has a show that you need to subscribe to. It’s on YouTube. He’s also co-founder of TheNorthstar.com and the co-founder of The Progressive Army. We’ve also been joined in studio with our own correspondent, Jaisal Noor. Jaisal has been reporting extensively on the policies of stop and frisk over the past decade while he was in New York City. So thank you, Ben, and thank you, Jaisal.

Jaisal Noor: And Kim, I would just add that one of Bernie Sanders’ top surrogates is Cornell West, who was an outspoken critic of stop and frisk. He got arrested protesting stop and frisk, and so I would … If the debate moderators don’t ask Bloomberg about stop and frisk, you can be pretty sure that Bernie Sanders is going to bring it up in that next debate, in which Bloomberg was able to buy his way onto, which is right before the Nevada caucus. So this story is not over. I don’t think Bloomberg’s going to be able to put it behind him.

Kim Brown: Okay, guys. We’re going to have to end the conversation there. We’ve been speaking with Ben Dixon and Jaisal Noor and I’m Kim Brown from The Real News Network.