WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg sought Tuesday to downplay comments he made in 2015 defending his stop-and-frisk police policy, while attacking President Donald Trump for a deleted tweet drawing attention to the incident.
In the tape, which circulated on social media on Tuesday, the former New York City mayor says that “95% of your murders, murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it, pass it out to all the cops, They are male, minorities, 16-25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city.”
At another point during the 2015 speech, Bloomberg addresses critics of the policy:
“So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods … Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.”
The comments drew criticism online after being posted by progressive podcaster Benjamin Dixon, who said they were made at the Aspen Institute. And Trump joined in, retweeting a clip of the audio and calling Bloomberg a “TOTAL RACIST.”
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Trump deleted the tweet minutes later and did not disclose that he too has supported stop-and-frisk, which critics have decried as a racist police tactic. The president’s aides did not comment on the deleted tweet.
In response, Bloomberg described it as “the latest example of (Trump’s) endless efforts to divide Americans” while trying to explain the audio.
“I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused,” said Bloomberg in a statement.
Bloomberg has since rescinded his support of stop-and-frisk, saying in the statement: “By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner.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.”
Conservative supporters of Trump tweeted out the audio as well as attacks on Bloomberg, including from the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and campaign manager Brad Parscale.
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In his statement Tuesday, Bloomberg said: “This issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity.”
While Bloomberg is not competing in the New Hampshire primary, he is using millions of his own money and is rising in the polls against both Democratic opponents and Trump himself. He has also been the subject of repeated Trump attacks.
Bloomberg has said Trump is stepping up his attacks because he fears his candidacy.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh, said the audio reflects “clearly racist comments” that are “unacceptable.” It shows that “his apology for ‘stop and frisk’ was fake and was only designed to win him votes,” he said.