Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is facing criticism from human rights groups over a number of comments made in the last four years in which the billionaire businessman vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination referred to transgender people as "it" and expressed doubt that expressing support for LGBTQ civil rights was a good electoral strategy for the 2020 election.
"If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that's not a winning formula for most people," Bloomberg said at a Bermuda Business Development Agency forum on March 21, 2019.
Queer supporters of Mike Bloomberg, how do you explain this to our transgender family and friends? Because they deserve a Democratic nominee that doesn’t refer to them as “it.” pic.twitter.com/HNwuxDZzhf— H. Alan Scott / Sadie Pines (@HAlanScott) February 19, 2020
The 2019 comments were unearthed and reported on by Buzzfeed News journalist Dominic Holden on Tuesday.
Holden's colleague at Buzzfeed, Hayes Brown, noted that Bloomberg was erasing trans people across the country.
"Underrated part of this clip: Bloomberg using the classic 'this is just what you'd hear if you ask someone in the middle of the country' framing, as if trans people and their loved ones don't live anywhere but on the coasts," said Brown.
NBC News reporter Ben Kesslen pointed out that Bloomberg was not only insulting trans people but also the broader electorate.
"At the core of Bloomberg's comments—just like the ones that resurfaced last week—is a deep condescension," said Kesslen. "He seems to believe trans rights don't matter to 'regular' people."
At the core of Bloomberg's comments—just like the ones that resurfaced last week—is a deep condescension. He seems to believe trans rights don't matter to "regular" people. https://t.co/TjFrjmhZZA— ben kesslen (@benkesslen) February 19, 2020
Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David said in a statement that Bloomberg "should apologize for using language that demoralizes and dehumanizes members of our community."
"We expect all pro-equality candidates, including Mayor Bloomberg, to create policy solutions to end the epidemic of violence our community faces, not use the same talking points our opponents use to dehumanize transgender people and justify their own hateful beliefs," David said. "LGBTQ people are human and deserve to be treated with respect."
David's colleague, Human Rights Campaign rapid response press secretary Charlotte Clymer, echoed the call for Bloomberg to apologize, saying she was "heartbroken and infuriated."
"His remarks are cruel, inexcusable, and enable violence and discrimination against trans and non-binary folks," Clymer said.
The 2019 comments were just the most recent instance of Bloomberg's use of transphobic and homophobic language resurfacing as the billionaire ramps up advertising spending in advance of the Super Tuesday contest on March 3. In 2016, Bloomberg said that voters in the Midwest would react poorly to "the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter." And a book of old quotes from Bloomberg from 1990, published in full for the first time by the Washington Post on February 15, cites the billionaire using a homophobic slur.
Here's @MikeBloomberg in December 2016 at Oxford explaining how trans rights simply won't fly in the midwest because only the "intelligentsia" can understand why "some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter." pic.twitter.com/g6aa8aB1jq— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) February 6, 2020
Bloomberg's comments "display a stunning ignorance of how many gender non-conforming folks live all over our country and across the world," tweeted scientist Jess Phoenix.
"Update your understanding," said Phoenix. "No one gets left out of human rights."