By Tom Leonard from New York
The Daily Mail
February 21, 2020
Abridged by Lasha Darkmoon
AMERICA’S SEXIEST BILLIONAIRE?
No, not Donald Trump — but Michael Bloomberg, the multi-billionaire who tends to snort derisively whenever he hears the current president boast about his wealth and brilliant business career.
As the world capital of high-stakes gambling, Las Vegas was an entirely fitting location for the richest person ever to run for the U.S. presidency to lay his claim to the White House.
For the former mayor of New York is both very rich (as the world’s ninth richest man he has an estimated fortune of $62 billion) and full of loathing for Trump — two facts that explain why he felt compelled to join the lengthy list of candidates vying for the Democrat presidential nomination.
On Wednesday night, he made his first appearance in the televised debates, clashing with the five other leading contenders in Sin City just three days before the Nevada caucus on Saturday.
Given he has been riding high in the polls on nothing more than his vast self-funded spending on political advertising — more than $400 million so far — and the implied insult that he’s only running because he thinks the rest of the candidates are incapable of beating Trump, the others lined up to attack him. And, according to the pundits, it was certainly a mauling.
BLOOMBERG WITH TRUMP in 2007
LD: Bloomberg, whose family came to America as Jewish immigrants from Russia, may well be America’s first Jewish president. As the world’s ninth richest man (worth $62 billion), Bloomberg could easily buy and sell Trump several times over. He reportedly regards Trump with personal loathing, but whether he would be a better man to have in the White House is highly debatable. So maybe it’s a question of . . . better the devil you know. [LD]
Debating isn’t Bloomberg’s strong point and he appeared unprepared for the predictable barracking about his views on women, race and crime, and whether America needs another egotistical 70-something billionaire in the White House.
However, America’s political ‘experts’ often misjudge the mood and, judging by the callers jamming the switchboard of New York’s public radio station yesterday, ordinary voters were rather more impressed with the new boy.
But at a time when the Democrats are drifting to the Left — self-described ‘democratic socialist’ Bernie Sanders is currently topping polls — and their presidential contenders compete to be the most politically correct, Bloomberg, 78, is playing a sticky wicket.
It’s not just his money — which he made selling expensive financial data computer terminals to Wall Street. As New York’s mayor, he cleaned up the city in various ways but controversially supported a ‘stop and search’ policy which was widely condemned as racist because it disproportionately targeted young black men.
Bloomberg — who needs to attract black and Hispanic voters to win — has apologised, and did so again on Wednesday, but his opponents were unimpressed by his sincerity.
They were similarly underwhelmed by his stilted response to another skeleton from his past — his history of boorish and offensive comments about women.
Female staff have described a misogynist culture at his company and some sued, with an estimated 17 accepting ‘non-disclosure agreements’ that barred them from discussing it.
One former saleswoman who sued Bloomberg and his company alleged he told her to ‘kill it’ when he learned she was pregnant.
He denied her allegation under oath and reached a confidential settlement with her. When Bloom-berg insisted on Wednesday that none of them accused him of personally doing anything ‘other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told’, Left-wing firebrand Elizabeth Warren pressed him to release them there and then from their gagging orders.
He declined. ‘Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,’ warned Warren, who has campaigned fiercely to address America’s growing economic inequality and had a very good night.
‘I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’ she said. ‘And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.’
Her ‘horse-faced lesbians’ remark was extracted from a 32-page booklet — ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg’ — that his Wall Street colleagues and employees put together in 1990. It’s stuffed full of off-colour jokes.
One quote attributed to him reads: ‘If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to [department store] Bloomingdale’s.’
In another, he reportedly claimed at a meeting that his computer terminal would ‘do everything’ including oral sex, adding: ‘I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.’
He says he can’t remember making the comments and, in mitigation, points out that sexism was rife in the financial services industry back then. Meanwhile, in his 1997 autobiography, Bloom-berg bragged that he kept ‘a girlfriend in every city’ during his years on Wall Street.
He told a reporter at the time: ‘I like theatre, dining and chasing women’, describing his romantic life as a ‘wet dream’.
He has also repeatedly been accused of making crude and lewd comments, allegedly telling a former female employee, ‘I would do you in a second,’ and saying of another woman, ‘I’d like to do that piece of meat’.
Critics say that ‘Bloomy’ sounds too much like Trump for a political party that has denounced the misogyny of a president who boasted about groping women.
Compounding his problems with voters looking for an antidote to Trump, Bloomberg is distinctly uncuddly. Lacking in warmth and charm, he is notoriously thin-skinned and repeatedly rolled his eyes as his opponents jabbed at him on Wednesday night.
It all sounds fairly damning —until one bears in mind that polls show that what matters to Democrat voters far more than anything is getting rid of Trump.
Despite all the sneering from Left-wing rivals about Bloomberg ‘buying his way’ to the White House, the brutal fact is that money talks in American politics and self-funded presidential candidates can spend as much as they like. And Bloomberg has made clear he’s prepared to spend whatever it takes.
In January, he said he’d even spend $2billion to win the White House.
As well as shelling out on adverts, he is also conducting huge amounts of polling and hiring armies of staff. It’s estimated that he’s sunk more than $10 billion into philanthropy and politics, particularly favourite causes such as climate change, gun control, abortion rights and tobacco regulation.
‘As president I’ll offer common sense plans and I will get it done,’ was how Bloomberg phrased it in his usual monotone in Las Vegas.
For his part, Trump is certainly taking Bloomberg seriously, dubbing him ‘Little Michael’ (Bloomberg is 5ft 7in), and clearly not relishing the possibility of having to debate with a man who could forensically pick apart his claims to have single-handedly revived the U.S. economy.
Despite the best efforts of Bloomberg’s critics, comparisons between the two tycoons only go so far. While Trump largely inherited his fortune from his property developer father, Bloomberg is the self-made son of a dairy company accountant from Massachusetts.
An Eagle Scout with a passion for snakes, Bloomberg went to Harvard Business School and became an investment banker on Wall Street. Sacked as a partner of Salomon Brothers after the investment bank was bought out, he used his $10 million pay-off to set up Bloomberg in 1981. The business now employs more than 19,000 people in 69 countries.
A few years ago, he was estimated to own 14 homes around the world. They included two in London — one in Knightsbridge and the other in Chelsea. Bloomberg bought the latter, a seven-bedroom mansion in Cheyne Walk that is the former home of author George Eliot, for £16 million in 2014 after paying £1 million more than the asking price.
In New York, he lives in a five-floor mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Other homes included three estates in the Hamptons, Long Island, and others in Colorado, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Paris.
When he’s not expanding his property portfolio, Bloomberg is also a keen pilot who has spent millions on a fleet of planes and helicopters.
Insiders say Bloomberg, both brash and jocular but also earnest and nerdy, is a man of contradictions. In his campaign for New York mayor he upheld the virtue of school prayers but simultaneously threw a ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ Christmas party in London in 2001, staffed by 600 people.
Guests were invited to frolic on a purple satin bed, while other features included drag queens, massage tables and entertainers waving wads of cash and shouting, ‘Money — ain’t it gorgeous?’
America’s first Jewish president?