Michael Bloomberg Audio Emerges of His Stop and Frisk Defense

Mark Niquette

(Bloomberg) -- A recording of Michael Bloomberg discussing his stop-and-frisk policy as New York City mayor surfaced online, saying the best way to reduce gun violence among minorities was to “throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”

President Donald Trump retweeted the video posted by Benjamin Dixon, a progressive activist who said he opposes Bloomberg’s candidacy. In Trump’s tweet, the president called Bloomberg “a total racist,” and then deleted the tweet.

Bloomberg said in a statement released by his campaign that he inherited the “stop and frisk” policy from his predecessor as New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and that he’d significantly cut back on its use.

“I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized -- and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities,” he said.

Later, he was asked about his record on stop and frisk in light of the audio on a conference call Tuesday with the Black Economic Alliance, a nonpartisan group that advocates on economic issues in the African-American community.

“I apologize. I own it. And there’s nothing -- I’m going to live with it. My heart, I think, was in the right place of trying to do something of reducing murders but the police -- I didn’t pay as much attention to them as I should have. And you know, I apologize,” he said.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

Dixon said the audiotape was a recording of a speech Bloomberg gave at the Aspen Institute in 2015. A report in the Aspen Times that year said Bloomberg’s staff asked the non-profit think tank to withhold distribution of the speech.

Bloomberg also sought to flip the focus back on Trump. In the statement about the audio, Bloomberg said, “President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans.”

Later Tuesday, the Bloomberg campaign said it had a “prescheduled meeting” with 20 black faith leaders who focused on Trump’s retweet of the audio and said they accepted his apology.

“To be clear: None of us believe that Mike Bloomberg is a racist,” the statement issued by his campaign said.

Bloomberg’s first apology for stop-and-frisk came in an appearance at a black New York church in November, a week before he announced his Democratic presidential campaign. Critics said the policy targeted blacks and Hispanics, and a federal court ruled in 2013 that it violated the constitutional rights of minorities.

In the audio, Bloomberg says that 95% of “murderers and murder victims” are minorities. “You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops,” he says. “They are male, minorities, 16 to 25.”

The audio surfaced hours after a Quinnipiac University poll came out Monday showing Bloomberg rising in presidential preference polls among black voters.

Bloomberg’s support among black voters jumped 15 percentage points since an earlier poll on Jan. 28, from 7% to 22%. Joe Biden’s once-overwhelming advantage among the same voter pool dropped from 49% to 27%.

Dixon said he found copies of the recording on YouTube “hiding in plain sight,” and posted it.

“There’s no illusion that this is going to stop his campaign, but I do believe that he’s going to have to at least address it,” Dixon said.

Trump has faced accusations of racial insensitivity, with several of the Democrats running for president, including Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer, saying he is a racist. He had expressed support for stop-and-frisk in a July 2013 tweet.

(Updates with new campaign comment beginning in tenth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Michael Shepard

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