Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign came under fire after posting a series of now-deleted tweets that included fake quotes of 2020 Democratic frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders praising authoritarianism.
As Common Dreams reported, Sanders' comments praising former Cuban President Fidel Castro for literacy programs in the island nation echoed remarks made about the Cuban leader by former President Barack Obama just four years ago. Both Sanders and Obama denounced authoritarian rule in Cuba while acknowledging the Castro government oversaw major advances in its education and universal healthcare systems, leading to better health outcomes for Cubans.
Bloomberg's campaign, however, compared Sanders' remarks to made-up statements attributed to the Vermont senator about former Ugandan President Idi Amin, Soviet leader Josef Stalin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and others.
The Bloomberg campaign deleted the tweets and said they were meant to be satirical, but The Guardian reported that some social media users said the campaign had not made clear that the quotes weren't real when they posted them using the hashtag #BernieOnDespots.
Sanders' press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, called the tweets a "string of intentional outright lies."
I'm old enough to remember a full news cycle on an honest mistake I made and immediately corrected.
I expect to see a similar level of outrage about this string of intentional outright lies from the Bloomberg camp. https://t.co/lzwEZ1JmXk
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— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) February 24, 2020
David Sirota, a speechwriter for the senator, slammed Bloomberg's team over the tweets—which, he noted, followed complaints from Bloomberg about the online "toxicity" allegedly supported by Sanders' campaign.
Mike Bloomberg has been publishing videos attacking Bernie Sanders and Bernie supporters for being “toxic” — and then Bloomberg fabricated grotesque fake quotes and attributed them to Bernie.
I want you to think about that. https://t.co/oAZVW7CDAp
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) February 25, 2020
The tweets were posted three days after Twitter announced it was suspending 70 accounts that have posted identical messages in support of Bloomberg in recent weeks.
The Bloomberg campaign has also been ridiculed for hiring people to post messages on social media in favor of the former mayor, paying them $2,500 per month—a tactic which UCLA professor Tim Groeling told the Los Angeles Times "signified his lack of organic grassroots support."