Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pressed Mike Bloomberg to release women from non-disclosure agreements they had made with his company during the presidential debate.
JACKSON: Let me ask you about something else. Several former employees have claimed that your company was a hostile workplace for women. When you were confronted about it, you admitted making sexually suggestive remarks, saying, quote, “That’s the way I grew up.” In a lawsuit in the 1990s, according to the Washington Post, one former female employee alleged that you said, quote, “I would do you in a second.” Should Democrats expect better from their nominee? BLOOMBERG: Let me say a couple of things, if I could have my full minute and a quarter, thank you. I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the “Me, Too” movement has exposed. And anybody that does anything wrong in our company, we investigate it, and if it’s appropriate, they’re gone that day. But let me tell you what I do at my company and my foundation and in city government when I was there. In my foundation, the person that runs it’s a woman, 70 percent of the people there are women. In my company, lots and lots of women have big responsibilities. They get paid exactly the same as men. And in my — in City Hall, the person, the top person, my deputy mayor was a woman, and 40 percent of our commissioners were women. I am very proud of the fact that about two weeks ago we were awarded, we were voted the most — the best place to work, second best place in America. If that doesn’t say something about our employees and how happy they are, I don’t know what does. JACKSON: Senator Warren, you’ve been critical of Mayor Bloomberg on this issue. WARREN: Yes, I have. And I hope you heard what his defense was. “I’ve been nice to some women.” That just doesn’t cut it. The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story? (APPLAUSE) BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements. WARREN: How many is that? BLOOMBERG: Let me finish. WARREN: How many is that? BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told. And let me just — and let me — there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it. BIDEN: Come on. WARREN: So, wait, when you say it is up to — I just want to be clear. Some is how many? And — and when you — and when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that’s now OK with you? You’re releasing them on television tonight? Is that right? (APPLAUSE) BLOOMBERG: Senator… WARREN: Is that right, tonight? BLOOMBERG: Senator, the company and somebody else, in this case — a man or a woman or it could be more than that, they decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody’s interests. BIDEN: Come on. BLOOMBERG: They signed the agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with. (CROSSTALK) BUTTIGIEG: You could release them now. WARREN: I’m sorry. No, the question is… BLOOMBERG: I heard your question. WARREN: … are the women bound by being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately? Because, understand, this is not just a question of the mayor’s character. This is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against. (APPLAUSE) That’s not what we do as Democrats. JACKSON: Mr. Vice President? BIDEN: Look, let’s get something straight here. It’s easy. All the mayor has to do is say, “You are released from the nondisclosure agreement,” period. (APPLAUSE) We talk about transparency here. This guy got himself in trouble saying that there was a non — that he couldn’t disclose what he did. He went to his company… BUTTIGIEG: Just to be super-clear, that was about the list of clients, so nobody gets the wrong idea. BIDEN: No, no, no. Yeah, I’m sorry. (LAUGHTER) BUTTIGIEG: I know what you mean. No, you’re right. BIDEN: But he said — he went to the company and said I want to be released, I want to be able to do it. Look, this is about transparency from the very beginning, whether it’s your health record, whether it’s your taxes, whether it’s whether you have cases against you, whether or not people have signed nondisclosure agreements. You think the women, in fact, were ready to say I don’t want anybody to know about what you did to me? That’s not how it works. The way it works is they say, look, this is what you did to me and the mayor comes along and his attorneys said, I will give you this amount of money if you promise you will never say anything. That’s how it works. (APPLAUSE) JACKSON: Mayor Bloomberg, final word to you? BLOOMBERG: I’ve said we’re not going to get — to end these agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private. (AUDIENCE BOOS) BIDEN: If they want to release it, they should be able to release themselves. Say yes.