Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, told a crowd at Britain’s Oxford University in 2016 that people from the American Midwest do not believe in transgender rights and that it is educated and wealthy people — not the masses — who support equal rights, according to a video that recently surfaced.
“If you want to know if someone is a good salesman, give him the job of going to the Midwest, and picking a town, and selling to that town the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter,” Bloomberg said in a clip posted on Twitter by journalist Walker Bragman. “If you can sell that, you can sell anything. I mean, they just look at ya and say, ‘What on earth are you talking about?’ And you say, ‘Well, this person identifies as her gender as different than what’s on her birth certificate.’… ‘What do you mean? You’re either born this or you’re born that.’”
The billionaire’s sweeping generalizations, which were made during a discussion about Brexit, didn’t end there. He also, without any evidence, dismissed most Americans as opponents of equal rights in general and suggested that only educated and more well-off people believe in equality.
“If you think about it, we, the ‘intelligentsia people’ who could make it into this room, we believe in a lot of things in terms of equality and protecting individual rights that make no sense to the vast bulk of people,” Bloomberg said. “They’re not opposed to you having some rights, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between us believing the rights of individual comes first, and the general belief around the world, I think, sort of say that the rights of society come first.”
When asked to explain the video or comment on it, the Bloomberg campaign instead defended the candidate’s record on LGBTQ issues as New York City mayor, when he signed a transgender rights law, and did not directly respond to the video.
“Mike understands that the transgender community has been under attack for decades and the advance of rights has not been equal… Mike is running to defeat Donald Trump and reverse the many policies he has implemented that attack the rights of the transgender community,” the campaign said in a written statement.
The comments were unearthed days after he unveiled an LGBTQ platform that mostly mirrored the plans released by his rivals chasing the Democratic nomination. Bloomberg’s campaign received stinging criticism from the audience at a Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City endorsement meeting on January 22 when club members grilled his surrogate about the former mayor’s record on issues such as policing and same-sex marriage, where his record began with his appeal of a favorable 2005 court ruling from a Manhattan Supreme Court judge. Like Bloomberg’s comments at Oxford, some of those questions touched on issues related to class — such as when he smothered the Occupy Wall Street protests by driving protestors out of Zuccotti Park in 2011.
Bloomberg, who entered the race very late, is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign for president. He has gained in some polls, but would have significant ground to make up once he is on ballots because he is skipping out on the first four states in the race for the Democratic nomination.