Michael Bloomberg on Bill de Blasio’s ‘racist’ campaign and 4 other eye-catching comments

September 9, 2013

In a series of interviews with New York Magazine's Chris Smith published over the weekend, outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) reflected on his tenure, made news in the race to replace him, and looked to the future, both New York's and his own. Here are the five most notable things he said in the interviews:

(Eduardo Munoz/Reuters) (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

1. He said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is running a "racist" campaign for mayor. This is the comment that has received the most attention. Here's the exchange between Bloomberg and New York Magazine:

CS: Then there’s Bill de Blasio, who’s become the Democratic front-runner. He has in some ways been running a class-warfare campaign—

Bloomberg: Class-warfare and racist.

CS: Racist?

Bloomberg: Well, no, no, I mean* he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.

(The asterisk above signals an initially inaudible interjection that was added to the story.)

De Blasio is a onetime underdog who polls show is leading the Democratic pack headed into Tuesday's primary. His African-American wife and his mixed-race children have been very visible in the campaign. (De Blasio is white.) He is running as the most liberal candidate in the field, and a major part of his message is a break from the policies of Bloomberg.

De Blasio responded to the mayor, calling Bloomberg's remarks "inappropriate." Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who isn't exactly pals with Bloomberg, slammed the mayor's comments. De Blasio worked for Cuomo when he was HUD secretary.

2. He thinks President Obama needs to do a better job reaching out to Republicans. Overall, Bloomberg's appraisal of Obama -- who he endorsed -- was positive. But when it comes to outreach to the opposing party, Bloomberg said he would do things differently -- something worth keeping in mind as Obama will have to re-engage with congressional Republicans on Syria and a complex and looming fiscal debate. Here's what Bloomberg said:

I think some things he’s done well; some things I’ve encouraged him to do more of. He’s a very smart guy. He’s very thoughtful. He is honest, and he is earnest. He’s got a tough row to hoe with Congress, but if I’ve been critical at all, it’s because I think he could do more reaching out to more sides of the aisle. He gave a speech on immigration and said that we have to have bipartisan support, but the Republicans were the problem. I wouldn’t do it that way. In business, I would kiss you and then ask for something. In government, they tend to take a swing and then ask for something.

3. No second thoughts on punishing Democrats for not backing gun control. Bloomberg is one of the most outspoken gun control advocates in the country. And his considerable wealth makes him a major player in the national debate. He's spent money hitting Democrats -- like Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) -- who've opposed stricter guns laws, a move that has irked some party leaders. Such a strategy may help Republicans who are even less sympathetic to calls for new gun control laws win seats, the thinking goes. But based on what Bloomberg told Smith, it doesn't sound like he is about to back away form his strategy any time soon:

The way that all these single-issue advocacy organizations work—the NRA, Gun Owners of America, the AARP—is they say, “Vote with us, or we’re going to go after you.” And if you say, “Well, my opponent is worse than me,” they say, “We don’t care, we’re going after you. It’s your vote we care about. We’ll deal with him if we need to.” You have to have a counter to that. This, to me, is the most important issue. And incidentally, it is not Democrats we are going after—it is whatever party happens to control the Senate, and if we get legislation passed there, we will go after whatever party happens to control the House. It is not because they’re Democrats. It looks like it would be Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, but who knows?

4. He has no plans to run for president in 2016. Those waiting for a future Bloomberg national candidacy shouldn't get their hopes up. He said he he believes that you cannot win unless you are the Republican or Democratic nominee.

It’s just impossible. I am 100 percent convinced that you cannot in this country win an election unless you are the nominee of one of the two major parties. The second thing I am convinced of is that I could not get through the primary process with either party.

5. He thinks the print journalism industry faces a tough future. Why did Jeff Bezos buy The Washington Post? Bloomberg said he doesn't know:

I think the future of print journalism is problematic. Why Bezos bought the Post, I have no idea. He said that he wasn’t going to get involved in it. What’s the point of owning it if you don’t? Certainly not to make money. If you wanna have fun, buy the New York Post.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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