The thin, bound booklet of “Wit and Wisdom” attributed to Mike Bloomberg -- distributed at a 1990 party as a light-hearted gift -- is filled with crude and sexist remarks, but also off-color quips on race and religion that could prove damaging as he mounts his bid for the White House.
ABC News has obtained one of the few remaining original copies. The 32-page booklet contains what are alleged to be Bloomberg’s own views and off-hand commentary on a wide range of subjects -- language his campaign says he cannot remember using.
On being asked to name a sport that doesn’t use balls, Bloomberg is quoted replying, "lesbian sex." On characterizing his competitors: "Cokehead, womanizing, f--." Bloomberg, who is Jewish, is alleged to have listed the "three biggest lies," as "the check’s in the mail," "I’ll respect you in the morning" and "I’m glad I’m Jewish." The book quotes him allegedly joking, "If Jesus was a Jew, why does he have a Puerto Rican first name?"
Titled "The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit & Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg," the booklet was originally compiled by colleagues in honor of Bloomberg’s 48th birthday. 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, when 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. DeMarse wrote in the booklet's forward, "Yes, these are all actual quotes. No, nothing has been embellished or exaggerated. And yes, some things were too outrageous to include."
When the book first made news in 2001, the billionaire business tycoon had just begun his first foray into politics. Now, it is back at a time when he is trying -- through a multimillion dollar-ad campaign -- to introduce himself to voters nationwide as a reformer and an antidote to President Donald Trump.
"Bloomberg already has a steep hill to climb if he wants to become a top-tier candidate, and his past comments and behavior will only put more hurdles in his way to winning over democratic primary voters," said Kelly Dittmar, professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics.
"While misogynistic behavior and comments have not been disqualifying for many candidates -- including the president -- in the past, Democrats need a candidate without this history in order to effectively contrast their likely opponent: Donald Trump," she said.
The book’s contents echo allegations described in lawsuits that have been filed against Bloomberg and his company dating back to the 1990s. Those cases allege a pervasive culture of harassment in the workplace. None of the cases made it to trial -- four were either dismissed or withdrawn, while five were settled out of court. Three against the company remain active.
Bloomberg has denied the allegations both in court filings and on the campaign trail. He told a reporter from ABC News on Sunday that 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."
His campaign aides, responding to detailed questions, said Bloomberg “has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life."
A campaign official said that when Bloomberg was first asked about the booklet in 2001, he said he didn’t remember it.
There are conflicting accounts of Bloomberg’s actions and attitudes during his long tenure as the majority owner of the successful financial media firm he founded, and during three terms as mayor of New York.
Through his company and campaign spokespeople, Bloomberg paints a picture of his efforts as an open-minded reformer who sought to empower women and minorities. They noted that during his tenure as mayor he created an initiative that led to a fivefold jump in city purchasing from minority and women-owned businesses. When he resumed leadership of his company in 2015, he launched a review of the company’s diversity landscape and commissioned a company-wide effort to promote gender equality across the business, resulting in the hiring of the company’s first chief diversity officer in 2016.
In one of the early lawsuits filed against both Bloomberg and his firm in 1997, a regional sales manager at the company named Sekiko Sakai, a woman of Japanese descent, claimed Bloomberg made disparaging comments about her ethnicity. "Bloomberg always made comments about my national origin,” Sakai alleged in her filing, adding that he referred to her as "a 'Jap" and "[said] that I alone destroyed 'centuries of Japanese culture' because of my aggressiveness in business."
Sakai said in a court filing that Bloomberg "made derogatory comments about Chinese businessmen and Mexican businessmen to me," and posited that an unidentified African American colleague in the sales department "constantly complained to [executives] about racial discriminatory behavior in the sales group."
Bloomberg eventually settled Sakai’s case out of court. Sakai is now bound to a nondisclosure agreement and is therefore unable to speak more about her experience at the company.
ABC News asked Bloomberg through his campaign if he has considered releasing women from their nondisclosure agreements. The Bloomberg campaign declined to comment.