When the latest New York magazine cover story on leading New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn came out this week, it quoted current Mayor Michael Bloomberg as telling a reporter to "look at the ass on her" while gesturing toward a woman at a holiday party. Elsewhere in the piece, Quinn spoke briefly about the frequent comments the mayor makes about her clothes and appearance:
[S]he said, "The mayor is going to yell at me when I get out of the car because I have flat boots on. The mayor has no use for flat shoes." Really, I said. Why would he care? "I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?' and I said, ‘They're comfortable,' and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.' " Everyone in the vehicle, including the security detail in the front seat, cracked up. "He likes me in high heels. Let's see how long it takes before he notices." She scrolled through her BlackBerry. "Another big thing with the mayor, when I am rooting … like, the couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored, he'll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it's three with the gray.' And I'm like, ‘Did you wake up being this big of an asshole? Or did it take, like, all day to ramp up to it to be able to insult me like that?' "
Some were shocked that Bloomberg, with his endorsements for President Obama and progressive stances on gun control, seems to have a mean streak of misogyny coursing just underneath his billion-dollar bankroll and diminutive size. Not shocked was anyone who's worked around Bloomberg for any significant amount of time. Those are the people who know the Independent mayor's other side, the one forged in the cutthroat, chest-thumping world of Wall Street, where Bloomberg made his billions and sat atop a company that—allegedly—encouraged female employees to wear short skirts and "fuck-me shoes."
Here is a rundown of some of the more notable allegations of sexism leveled against Michael Bloomberg throughout his career. As you'll see, "look at the ass on her" appears to be merely the tip of the anti-woman obnoxiousness.
1996-97, Bloomberg LP: "I'd do her."
- In 1996 and 1997, four women filed sexual harassment suits against Bloomberg LP. One of them, a sales executive named Sekiko Garrison, alleges that Michael Bloomberg told her to "Kill it!" when she shared with him that she was pregnant. Asked by Garrison to repeat himself, Bloomberg said again, "Kill it!" Garrison says that Bloomberg went on to lament that she was going to be the sixteenth woman in the company to be taking maternity leave.
- Garrison further stated that Bloomberg antagonized her even before she became pregnant, asking her of her engagement ring, "What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for?" and, a week later, "Still engaged? What, is he that good in bed, or did your father pay him off to get rid of you?" In a deposition, Bloomberg is reported to have conceded saying "I'd do her" in relation to Garrison, but he insisted that he thought "do" meant to have a personal relationship with someone. Other reports from the deposition say Bloomberg almost stormed out of the proceedings when the opposing attorney asked him if he thought the porn film Debbie Does Dallas meant Debbie has a personal relationship with everyone from Dallas.
- Eventually Bloomberg settled with Garrison out of court for an undisclosed sum, though he maintains his innocence to this day, saying he passed a lie-detector test. The results of that test have never been made public.
1998 and 2007, Bloomberg LP: "I don't recall ever using the term 'meat' at all."
- Another of the women behind one of the late '90s lawsuits was Mary Ann Olszewski, who claimed that "male employees from Mr. Bloomberg on down" routinely demoralized women at Bloomberg LP. Olszewski said that the harassment culminated in her being raped in a Chicago hotel room by her direct superior, a top Bloomberg executive. In a 1998 deposition relating to the Olszewski case, Bloomberg testified that he wouldn't call the rape allegation genuine unless there was "an unimpeachable third-party witness." "Describe for me your conception of how there could be a third-party witness to confirm or deny the truthfulness of her allegations," the attorney asked Bloomberg. Bloomberg responded, "There are times when three people are together." Later asked if he'd ever made a comment to the effect of "I'd do that piece of meat" or "I'd "do her in a second," Bloomberg said simply, "I don't recall ever using the term 'meat' at all." The Village Voice reported in 2001 that a federal judge dropped Olszewski's case after an internal Bloomberg LP effort to smear Olszewski as "flirtatious" and a "sex hound." But the Voice's Wayne Barrett says he believes there are signs suggesting Bloomberg secretly settled with Olszewski.
- In a 2001 New York Times article about the lawsuits, Bloomberg characterized them as: "If you don't give me what I want, I'm going to make a fuss."
- In 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Bloomberg LP on behalf of 78 women who claimed that Bloomberg—who at that point was not involved in the day-to-day company operations, despite being a majority shareholder—and Bloomberg LP "fostered, condoned and perpetuated" a hostile work environment for female employees. The suit charged that Bloomberg LP systematically demoted women and excluded them from growth opportunities if they became pregnant. Manhattan judge Loretta Preska tossed the suit in 2011 citing insufficient evidence, but she allowed some individual complaints to proceed.
2001, The Portable Bloomberg: "That horsey faced lesbian"
- In September 2001, less than a year before Bloomberg would first be elected mayor, then-New York magazine columnist Michael Wolff got his hands on a book called The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg. Dated Valentine's Day 1990, Bloomberg's 48th birthday, the book was reportedly a gift from Bloomberg LP staffers who wanted to canonize some of their boss' most famous quips and anecdotes. Anyone looking for uplifting bon mots, however, would be sorely letdown. As Wolff wrote at the time, the book "represents, I think, an institutional acceptance of the arrogance, cruelty, carelessness, and rulelessness of the CEO." Also, sexism. A lot of sexism. Here are some excerpts, all of which Elisabeth DeMarse, a former Bloomberg executive, corroborated as "direct quotes" from Bloomberg himself:
The Royal family—what a bunch of misfits—a gay, an architect, that horsey faced lesbian, and a kid who gave up Koo Stark for some fat broad.
The three biggest lies are: the check's in the mail, I'll respect you in the morning, and I'm glad I'm Jewish.
If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they'd go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale's.
I know for a fact that any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction site and doesn't get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one.
When Wolff asked DeMarse how Bloomberg liked his book, DeMarse said he got a real kick out of it. "He was touched," she said. "He loves things that are about himself."
Know of any other instances of Bloomberg's attacks on women? Have a copy of The Portable Bloomberg? Email me.