Bloomberg's New Ad an Attempt to Make Voters Forget His Stop-and-Frisk Audio?

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Posted: Feb 13, 2020 1:45 PM
Bloomberg's New Ad an Attempt to Make Voters Forget His Stop-and-Frisk Audio?

Source: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Two days ago some racially insensitive audio surfaced of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussing his old police program, stop-and-frisk. For years critics have condemned the program as racist, because it disproportionately targeted minorities. 

This audio certainly didn't help.

"Ninety-five percent of murders—murderers and murder victims—fit one M.O," Bloomberg says in the scratchy recording from a speech at the Aspen Institute in February 2015. "You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops," he said during a speech to the Aspen Institute. "They are male, minorities, 16-25. That's true in New York, that's true in virtually every city (inaudible). And that's where the real crime is. You've got to get the guns out of the hands of people that are getting killed."

He added: "Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that's true. Why do we do it? Because that's where all the crime is." 

During his damage control spin, Bloomberg said that his old comments "do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity." He has previously apologized for stop-and-frisk and admitted it unfairly targeted blacks and Latinos.

When again confronted about the old recording, Bloomberg apparently laughed it off.

But his campaign isn't laughing. Amid the PR disaster they've hurriedly released a new ad highlighting his efforts on behalf of black business owners. The timing... 

"Before Mike, we were desperate," says business owner Cheryl, the narrator. "There were not a lot of opportunities for black-owned businesses to compete. Mike saw that, and he leveled the playing field for black-owned businesses."

Under his leadership, city contracts to minority and women-owned businesses increased by 7 percent, according to the ad. 

That number sounds impressive and Cheryl has a sweet story. But will the TV ad help voters look past stop-and-frisk? Not for New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow, who wrote this week that Bloomberg's "racist stop-and-frisk policy as New York mayor can’t be forgotten."

What Bloomberg did as mayor amounted to a police occupation of minority neighborhoods, a terroristic pressure campaign, with little evidence that it was accomplishing the goal of sustained, long-term crime reduction.

Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped were completely innocent. He knew that. They were the collateral damage in his crusade, black and brown bodies up against walls and down on the ground, groped in the middle of the city by strange men with guns, a vast expanse of human psychological wreckage about which he couldn’t care less.

The former mayor may be at his first 2020 presidential debate in Nevada next week, if the billionaire successfully buys his way onstage. He should be careful what he wishes for, though, because I suspect the moderators will have a few questions about *that* audio.