Last Night's Democratic Primary debate in Las Vegas had a number of highlights, with tension and personal attacks arising between a number of candidates.
Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar clashed numerous times during the debate and finished the night with a rejected handshake, while every candidate but Bloomberg himself took a swipe at the former elephant in the room (because he used to be a Republican…and they have an elephant mascot…you get it). But there was no other drama as costly—in every sense of the word—as Elizabeth Warren's vicious takedown of the former Mayor of New York and current billionaire scandal-machine.
After dropping more than $400 million on an advertising blitz that includes memes from the people who promoted the Fyre Festival and a commercial that all-but claims an endorsement from best-friend Barack Obama (with whom Bloomberg is hardly friendly), Bloomberg had managed to scrape together an impressive position in national polls. That, along with possible help of donations to the DNC, was enough to qualify him for the debate stage in Las Vegas Wednesday night, but he may be regretting that fact after Warren tore into his troubling record on a number of issues, beginning with the laundry list of sexual harassment allegations that his employees have leveled against him.
"I'd like to talk about who we're running against: a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians.' And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump; I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like red-lining and stop and frisk."
Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images
As she went in, Mike Bloomberg stood roughly three feet to her right (though several miles to her right in terms of policy positions), allowing the audience's derision to wash over him. The sour expression on his face spoke to the sprawling spreadsheet inside his head, calculating what it will cost to repair his polling after such a bloodbath. Of course, any conversation about his history with female employees is hampered by the fact that the details of the cases against him are not available to the public. The women involved signed non-disclosure agreements from which Bloomberg could easily release them—despite his meaningless protestations that the contracts were "consensual."
"He has gotten some number of women—dozens? Who knows—to sign non-disclosure agreements, both for sexual harassment, and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, 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?"
No, he is not. What he is willing to do is claim that "some number" of non-disclosure agreements is actually just "a very few"—though not so few that when Warren repeatedly asked him, "How many is that?" he could provide a specific answer. He was also happy to dismiss the women's complaints against him, saying "maybe they didn't like a joke I told" to jeers from the crowd.
Repairing his image among women who have worked under casual misogynists is not going to be cheap. No doubt there are crisis meetings in board rooms along Madison avenue right now, full of advertising executives and copywriters storyboarding a 2-minute primetime spot about how much Bloomberg hated hanging out with Harvey Weinstein throughout their long friendship—watch for that during commercial breaks for this Sunday's American Idol.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images
But Warren wasn't done with him. She dug into Bloomberg's record on race relations, as well. Many people have criticized his half-assed apology for his Stop and Frisk policy—claiming that he cut the practice by 95%, when he actually expanded it by 600% and only cut it down when he was forced to—but Elizabeth Warren really broke it down:
"When the mayor says that he apologized, listen very closely to the apology. The language he used about Stop and Frisk is about how it turned out. Now, this isn't about how it turned out. This is about what it was designed to do to begin with. It targeted communities of color. It targeted black and brown men from the beginning. And if you want to issue a real apology, then the apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together, and the willful ignorance, day by day by day, of admitting what was happening, even as people protested in your own street—shutting out the sounds of people telling you how your own policy was breaking their lives. You need a different apology here, Mr. Mayor."
Ouch. It's a situation that many voters outside of New York are likely unfamiliar with. And considering Bloomberg's strong polling among black voters, this potent indictment could do more damage than any number of spurious Obama commercials can repair—but he has to try, dammit! Hopefully no one is motivated to Google Warren's comment about red-lining, or they may find the audio of Mike Bloomberg from 2015, seeming to blame the 2008 financial crisis on the end of racist home-loan practices.
The full bill for damage control remains to be seen—polling generally takes a few days to register shifts in public opinion—but looking at the steep dive Bloomberg took in the betting markets and the fact that his campaign has cost around $22 million for each percentage point of support, it seems safe to say that Elizabeth Warren's savage performance will end up costing him at least $100 million. Fortunately that's only about 0.15% of his net worth, so he certainly won't get vindictive and go on the attack in a way that reinforces the idea of him as a heartless and spiteful person…
Good luck out there, Mike!
Here are the best tweets about Warren's takedown of Bloomberg: