Elizabeth Warren Wants Bloomberg to “Answer for” His History of Sexist Remarks

Senator Elizabeth Warren is taking on 2020 rival Michael Bloomberg once again—and this time, it isn’t over his billionaire status. One day after ABC News reported on Bloomberg’s alleged history of making “crude and sexist comments” toward women as the head of Bloomberg LP and fostering a toxic work environment, Warren told reporters in Iowa that the businessman-turned-candidate should have to “answer for” his alleged sexism. “When women raise concerns like this, we have to pay attention,” Warren said. “We have to listen to them, and if Michael Bloomberg has made comments like this, then he has to answer for them.”

Warren took particular issue with women who are currently being prevented by nondisclosure agreements from speaking out about their experiences with Bloomberg. “I think [nondisclosure agreements] are a way for people to hide bad things they’ve done. And I think that women should be able to speak,” Warren said Monday. “They need to be released from [nondisclosure agreements].” According to ABC News, nondisclosure agreements have prevented a number of female Bloomberg employees from speaking out about their experiences with Bloomberg LP’s allegedly toxic and “frat-like” work environment, which women allege was borne out of Bloomberg’s own “use of lewd comments” around his co-workers. “Everybody I knew was taking [the NDAs],” said one former employee, who said she felt as though her superiors at Bloomberg had “sideline[d]” her over her pregnancy. (The employee was asked to sign an NDA in exchange for cash, but refused.) Another former Bloomberg employee currently bound by an NDA is Sekiko Sakai, who alleged in a 1997 lawsuit that when she told Bloomberg about her pregnancy, he responded, “Kill it.” “He told me to ’kill it’ in a serious monotone voice,” Sakai alleged in the lawsuit. “I asked ’What? What did you just say?’ He looked at me and repeated in a deliberate manner, ‘Kill it.’” (Bloomberg has denied making the alleged comment, and the lawsuit was later settled on undisclosed terms.) Should the Bloomberg campaign release Sakai from her NDA, her lawyer told ABC News, the former employee may be willing to share her story. (Bloomberg declined to comment to ABC News on whether they would release women from their NDAs.)

According to ABC News’s reporting, at least 17 women have taken legal action against Bloomberg LP over the past three decades, including three cases that specifically call out Bloomberg directly for his role in the company’s toxic culture. (None of the cases have made it to trial; three remain currently active.) “Mr. Bloomberg, Bloomberg’s founder, CEO, and President, and the former three-term Mayor of New York, encouraged this type of sexist and sexually charged behavior,” a 2016 lawsuit filed by a female employee noted. “Bloomberg’s notoriously sexist and hostile work environment has been well documented and has been the subject of myriad law suits prior to this lawsuit.” ABC News notes that during his time at Bloomberg LP prior to becoming mayor of New York City, Bloomberg was so notorious for making crude and often sexist comments that colleagues compiled his alleged comments into a book, which they gifted to Bloomberg in 1990. The book included such alleged comments as Bloomberg saying, “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive],” and, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales.” (Bloomberg has said he does not recall making the comments.) In a 1995 legal filing, an unnamed female employee said Bloomberg “would gawk at women and say about their legs, ‘I like,’” and “defended his attitude by saying it keeps him young.”

Bloomberg campaign spokesman Julie Wood told ABC News in a statement that Bloomberg “has supported and empowered women throughout his career—from appointing women to the very top positions in his mayoral administration to supporting women candidates for higher office to an industry-leading 26-weeks of paid family leave at his company.” Wood added, however, that “at the same time, Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.” Bloomberg himself denied the allegations that he fostered a sexist work culture at a campaign event Sunday, in which he pointed to Bloomberg LP’s “enviable record” of gender equality. “There will always be somebody that’s not happy, but we are—we do very well in terms of attracting men and women to come to work in the company, and the retention rate with both of them is good as I think any real company,” Bloomberg said. “So, I’m very proud of what we do.”

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