Bloomberg called Warren 'scary' and vowed to 'defend the banks' in closed-door 2016 event
Posted February 24, 2020 4:34 p.m. EST
CNN — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at a private event in 2016 that his presidential campaign platform would have been to "defend the banks" and also labeled the progressive movement and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, now a rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, as "scary."
When asked his views on the rise of the far right in Europe, Bloomberg warned about the rise of progressive politicians in the US, citing Warren -- though not Sanders.
"The left is arising. The progressive movement is just as scary," he says. "Elizabeth Warren on one side. And whoever you want to pick on the Republicans on the right side?"
Bloomberg, who was elected mayor as a Republican and as an independent, also criticized President Barack Obama, saying that his 2012 endorsement of Obama was "backhanded" and that he thought Republican Mitt Romney could have done a better job if he'd been elected.
Bloomberg is now running a largely self-funded multi-million-dollar campaign for the Democratic nomination, positioning himself as a moderate as his rivals -- a crowded field that includes not just Warren but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who is now the front-runner -- are trying to paint him as an out-of-touch billionaire who is trying to buy an election. Bloomberg has argued that he is using his wealth to advance progressive causes and defeat President Donald Trump in November.
Audio of his comments, allegedly from a closed Goldman Sachs event for at Yankee Stadium on June 15, 2016, were anonymously sent to CNN by an email address called "CancelGoldman," with the author claiming he worked at Goldman Sachs for 14 years. The email called on Bloomberg to drop out of the race. The audio of the event, sent to CNN and a host of reporters was uploaded to audio hosting platform SoundCloud five days ago. Bloomberg's campaign confirmed the authenticity of the comments. CNN confirmed through Facebook photographs that Bloomberg took part in an event that day at Yankee Stadium. Goldman Sachs declined to comment, but did not dispute it was their event.
Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said Bloomberg's comments about banks were a joke.
"The opening line was a joke," Loeser told CNN in an email. He added: "in the more serious parts of the speech, Mike tells very wealthy Americans that they need to break their addiction to cheap money that's exacerbating income inequality in America."
In the remarks, Bloomberg also spoke of the need for America to solve the problem of income equality before society "blows up."
"Well, to start, my first campaign platform would be to defend the banks, and you know how well that's gonna sell in this country," Bloomberg said in his remarks.
"But seriously," he went on, "somebody's gotta stand up and do what we need. A healthy banking system that's going to take risks because that's what creates the jobs for everybody. And nobody's willing to say that. The trouble is, these campaigns in this day and age, really are about slogans and not about issues anymore. And in this election you're going to see people are voting and they either love or hate, mostly hate both, but who you hate the least. That's what they're going to vote for. And they're not going to vote on issues."
Bloomberg added of the banking crowd, "these are my peeps."
He also said at the event that he had been prepared to run as an independent against both Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and had lawyers in all 50 states to get him on the ballot, but as he's also said publicly, told the crowd that the best he could hope to get was a third of the electoral votes and said an independent had "no chance."
The head of privately held Bloomberg LP, a financial data and media company, said he didn't regret not running -- but joked that winning the presidency would have given him the benefit of using Predator drones on those who had "annoyed me or screwed me."
"It would have been a great job," says Bloomberg. "No, I mean, you think about it, you have Predators, and the Predators have missiles, and I have a list of everybody that's annoyed me or screwed me for the last 74 years, and bang-bang-bang-bang."
Bloomberg's spokesman acknowledged to CNN the joke on drones seemed inappropriate.
"Way back in 2016, when someone cracked wise about a President using military hardware to settle grudges, an audience would laugh," Loeser also wrote. "After three years of Donald Trump's daily drama, that might not seem so funny. What you hear in these remarks are a combination of jokes and detailed explanations of ways to make our government better that are far beyond what the current occupant of the Oval Office could read, let alone think."
In his remarks, Bloomberg made historical reference to previous anti-elite revolutions.
"Look at the income inequality," he said. "Anytime we've had this before, society blows up and they do set up the guillotines and the guillotines don't have to be chop your head off. They could be confiscatory taxes, they could be seizing the endowments of uh, educational institutions and um, philanthropic organizations, all of which those proposals are out there. You know, you're going to have to do something about this income inequality and a lot of it comes from zero interest rates."
Elsewhere in the talk, Bloomberg suggested a New Deal type solution to income inequality, saying "maybe the answer is another WPA because the corporate world's not going to do it there."