Allegations of workplace harassment, sexism and gender discrimination loomed over Michael Bloomberg during his first U.S. Democratic debate on Wednesday night.
Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who was once a Republican, was forced to defend his record and past remarks about policing of minorities and demeaning comments about women, including those who worked at his financial data company, Bloomberg LP.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren stood out with repeated attacks on Bloomberg, labelling him “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
Warren also called out Bloomberg’s use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and asked whether he would be willing to “release” his female former employees from their agreements so they could speak publicly about their allegations.
Bloomberg said no, and asserted the NDAs were “consensual” documents. The former mayor also attempted to downplay the NDAs, suggesting that the women involved “didn’t like a joke I told.”
But what exactly is Bloomberg accused of? Here is an overview of the allegations made against him and members of his company.
Allegations of sexism and inappropriate comments
A recent Washington Post investigation highlighted several lawsuits filed over the years against Bloomberg and his company, with allegations including gender and pregnancy discrimination.
The suits include a case “brought by a federal agency” and one by a former employee who said Bloomberg created a culture of “sexual harassment and degradation,” according to the Post.
One former saleswoman, Sekiko Sakai Garrison, sued Bloomberg as well as his company, the Post reports, alleging workplace discrimination. Garrison alleged Bloomberg told her to “kill it” when he found out she was pregnant, interpreting the remark to mean “have an abortion to keep her job.”
Bloomberg denied her allegation and the two reached a confidential settlement.
A former Bloomberg technology writer, David Zielenziger, confirmed to the Post that he heard the CEO’s comment.
“I remember she had been telling some of her girlfriends that she was pregnant,” Zielenziger told the outlet. “And Mike came out and I remember he said, ‘Are you going to kill it?’ And that stopped everything. And I couldn’t believe it.”
In her suit, Garrison also alleged that Bloomberg would make sexual comments about women and female employees.
Garrison alleged that when one male colleague was getting married, Bloomberg told female salespeople that “all of you girls line up to give him as a wedding present.”
Garrison’s lawsuit also alleged that when Bloomberg saw certain women he said, “I’d f–k that in a second.”
A spokesperson told the Post that Bloomberg did not make the statements alleged in Garrison’s suit.
The ‘Wit and Wisdom’ booklet
Bloomberg’s alleged inappropriate remarks were apparently so commonplace that his colleagues compiled a booklet of his one-liners called The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg.
The book was produced by Elisabeth DeMarse, Bloomberg’s former chief marketing officer, and given to the CEO for his 48th birthday in 1990.
“Yes, these are all actual quotes,” DeMarse wrote in the book’s introduction. “No, nothing has been embellished or exaggerated. And yes, some things were too outrageous to include.”
The Post recently published a full copy of the booklet online.
Featured quotes include sexist remarks about women and comments about sex, like: “Make the customer feel like he’s getting laid when he’s getting f–ked.”
One quote is reportedly in relation to the British Royal Family, where Bloomberg allegedly said: “What a bunch of misfits — a gay, an architect, that horsey faced lesbian, and a kid who gave up Koo Stark for some fat broad.”
Bloomberg has acknowledged the booklet over the years and in 2001 said that he “might have said” some of the quotes. He has apologized to “anyone that was offended by” the comments.
In a recent statement to the Post, a spokesperson for Bloomberg’s political campaign said “Mike simply did not say the things somebody wrote in this gag gift, which has been circulating for 30 years and has been quoted in every previous election Mike has been in.”
The spokesperson also said that “Mike openly admits that his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life and some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.”
The alleged culture at Bloomberg
Aside from Garrison, another former employee named Mary Ann Olszewski sued Bloomberg LP in 1996.
As reported by the Post, Olszewski alleged she was drugged and raped by her supervisor at the company, and that employees engaged in a pattern of “sexual degradation of women.” She also alleged that Bloomberg made comments like, “I’d like to do that piece of meat.”
In her lawsuit, Olszewski said the company “took no steps to prevent or curtail the ongoing sexual harassment of female employees by Michael Bloomberg.”
Her case was dismissed, the Post reports, after Olszewski’s lawyer failed to meet a filing deadline.
Bloomberg has denied that there was any gender or pregnancy discrimination at his company.
— With files from the Associated Press
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