Booklet of Mike Bloomberg’s 'Wit and Wisdom' could haunt him during presidential bid: Critics
The book of quotes is reopening an inconvenient chapter in Bloomberg's career.
When Mike Bloomberg's friends and admiring colleagues compiled a small booklet of his "wit and wisdom" nearly 30 years ago, they opened it with this one-liner: "Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive]."
From there, the crude language continued: "What do I want?" it says on page six. "I want an exclusive, 10-year contract, an automatic extension, and I want you to pay me. And I want [oral sex] from Jane Fonda. Have you seen Jane Fonda? Not bad for fifty."
And sexist: "If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales." And, "I know for a fact that any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction site doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one."
In 1990, the 32-page book of quotes was intended to be a light-hearted gift to celebrate the 48th birthday of the thriving company’s up-and-coming boss. But as the former New York City mayor begins his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, this thin book is reemerging as evidence of an inconvenient chapter in his career.
Bloomberg has said in the past that he did not recall making the comments described in the booklet.
Language that might have flowed during the machismo-fueled 1990's on Wall Street, strikes a different chord during a nationwide political bid in the era of #MeToo.
"There's really little tolerance for a candidate who has problems with women," said Michele Swers, a professor of American government at Georgetown University, describing the Democratic primary.
"Things that used to not be talked about are now being talked about publicly," Swers said. "There's more attention on those kinds of issues, and so politicians are asked to address it."
Bloomberg has already started fielding questions about his own record with women. On Sunday, at a campaign event in North Carolina, Bloomberg told ABC News his company has an "enviable record" of gender equality.
"There will always be somebody that’s not happy, but we are -- we do very well in terms of attracting men and women to come to work in the company, and the retention rate with both of them is good as I think any real company," Bloomberg said. "So, I’m very proud of what we do."
A campaign spokesperson, Julie Wood, told ABC News that Bloomberg "believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life."
ABC News has obtained one of the only remaining original booklets, titled "The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg." To the extent Bloomberg attempts to answer critics about the way he spoke to, or treated female employees during that stage of his career, some former colleagues told ABC News the booklet is an accurate depiction of his conduct.
The woman who compiled the quotes from colleagues, Elisabeth DeMarse, had served as Bloomberg's head of marketing in the 1990s. In a brief conversation earlier this month, DeMarse confirmed what she told New York magazine when it first surfaced publicly in 2001, as Bloomberg ran for mayor of New York.
"He says this stuff to customers and new hires and anyone who comes into the office," DeMarse had said at the time. DeMarse has signed a confidentiality agreement with the company and declined to be interviewed.
"Yes, these are all actual quotes. No, nothing has been embellished or exaggerated. And yes, some things were too outrageous to include," DeMarse wrote in the booklet's forward.
In 2001, Bloomberg’s political opponents seized on the contents as evidence he was unfit to lead city government. But any interest in the subject was wiped away just days after the story broke, when New York and the nation became consumed by the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
It is unclear how Democratic primary voters will assess the allegations in 2020, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and in a race to face off against a president who has himself has denied allegations of sexual assault.
To Donna Clancy, an attorney handling three pending discrimination cases against Bloomberg's company, the contents are evidence of a glaring character flaw – one being exposed at a time when there is no latitude for demeaning comments about women in the office. Clancy said she found it stunning that these could be "things he would typically say in the workplace."
"I believe some of them, [which] I've quoted in my [legal] complaints, are pretty sexist," Clancy said.
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