Michael Bloomberg comes under attack at Democratic debate

Face to face: Democratic presidential hopefuls, from left, Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar arriving for the Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Face to face: Democratic presidential hopefuls, from left, Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar arriving for the Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The billionaire candidate was accused of trying to buy his way into White House

Michael Bloomberg faced a barrage of attacks at his first Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, as his rivals assailed the free-spending and fast-rising billionaire over his record on race, history of sexist comments and the use of his massive fortune to muscle his way into the contest.

In a rough debate début that gave voters their first unscripted look at the media mogul and self-funding former New York Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg seemed uncomfortable and hesitant as he defended his record and argued that he is Democrats’ best chance of beating Republican President Donald Trump in November.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg all lined up to go after Mr. Bloomberg, who has surged in polls helped by an unprecedented advertising blitz. But they also heaped personal attacks on one another in the most contentious of the nine Democratic White House debates.

All of the contenders on the Las Vegas debate stage accused Mr. Bloomberg of trying to buy his way into the White House and said his record as Mayor and businessman was not good enough to beat Mr. Trump.

“We’re running against a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,” said Ms. Warren, a Senator from Massachusetts. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” she added.

Mr. Bloomberg has been accused over the years of many sexist and misogynistic comments, and several lawsuits have been filed alleging that women were discriminated against at his media company.

Remarks about women

He did not respond to Ms. Warren’s comments about his alleged remarks about women, taken from a booklet given to him in 1990 that was said to be a compilation of his sayings over the years. A campaign spokesman has said Mr. Bloomberg “simply did not say the things somebody wrote in this gag gift”.

Mr. Bloomberg, who entered the race in November and is skipping the first four early voting states in February to focus on later nominating contests in March, has risen to No. 2 among Democrats behind Mr. Sanders, according to a Reuters/Ipsos national poll released on Tuesday. Mr. Bloomberg said at the debate that he was using his money for an important cause. “I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we’ve ever had. And if I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids.”

Mr. Trump was happy to inject himself into the debate pile-on of Mr. Bloomberg, telling supporters at a rally in Phoenix: “I hear he's getting pounded tonight.”

The debate came at a pivotal time, three days before Nevada’s presidential caucuses, the third contest in the state-by-state race to find a challenger to Mr. Trump in the November 3 election.

High stakes

The high stakes were evident in the intensity of the exchanges, with Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, in particular, facing the do-or-die task of reigniting their campaigns after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month.

Both Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden, the former Vice-President and one-time front-runner who lost ground to Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg in recent weeks, criticised Mr. Bloomberg for his treatment of women, and asked him to commit to releasing women who had signed non-disclosure agreements to settle lawsuits.

Mr. Bloomberg refused, saying they were made “consensually” with the expectation they would stay private.

“We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many non-disclosure agreements, and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against,” said Ms. Warren, who had her most aggressive debate.

Mr. Bloomberg said there were “very few” non-disclosure agreements. “None of them accuse me of anything,” he said. ”Maybe they didn't like the jokes I told.”

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 2:08:55 PM |

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