Around New England

Rhode Island Governor Sticking By Mike Bloomberg – Even After ‘Kill It’-Gate Re-Erupts

February 19, 2020

The only governor in the United States who has endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president is defending him in the wake of a withering news story in The Washington Post detailing allegations that Bloomberg often made lewd and demeaning comments to women who worked for him, criticized women for marrying and having babies, and once told a newly pregnant female employee to “kill it.”

Gina Raimondo, the governor of Rhode Island and a Democrat, who once called Bloomberg her political idol, endorsed the former New York City mayor on February 5 and is sticking with it.

Raimondo acknowledged finding Bloomberg’s purported past comments troubling.

“It is concerning. You never want to see that. But he has learned from it. He has changed,” Raimondo said Tuesday, February 18, according to The Providence Journal. “He also has an incredible record of investing in women’s empowerment, in the Latino community, in economic development for the African American community.

“Has Mike made some mistakes? We all have. Has he acknowledged those mistakes and apologized for them and learned from them? Absolutely,” Raimondo said, according to The Providence Journal.

Multiple lawsuits filed against Bloomberg by former employees ended with settlements and confidentiality agreements that prevent the plaintiffs from speaking publicly about their cases.

The woman who accused Bloomberg in a complaint filed in federal court in 1998 of telling her to “kill it,” Sekiko Sakai Garrison, for instance, has declined comment when contacted by various reporters over the years, according to news stories. “Both parties to the settlement are bound by a confidentiality agreement,” The New York Times reported on March 28, 2001.

Raimondo was asked about such agreements on Tuesday, February 18. Here’s a quotation from the news story in The Providence Journal:

Raimondo declined to say whether Bloomberg should release former female employees with sexual harassment claims from confidentiality agreements.

“That is his decision and his company’s decision, so I will leave this to his campaign,” she said.

Bloomberg denied the “kill it” comment during court proceedings in a 1997 lawsuit he settled in 2000, though The Washington Post on Saturday, February 15 quoted a previously unknown witness who said he remembers the incident.

For other vulgar comments attributed to him, Bloomberg has offered various explanations since he first ran for mayor of New York City in 2001, often through spokesmen. An early version acknowledged he may have said some of the things attributed to him and offered an apology to anyone who was offended.

His most recent explanation, through a spokesman to The Washington Post, is a denial that he said things quoted in a 32-page booklet by an admiring female employee of the time given to him as a gag gift for his 48th birthday.

The Washington Post published the booklet, titled The Portable Bloomberg:  The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg, in its entirety with only a few omissions on Saturday, February 15. The newspaper included a non-profane introduction to the booklet as well as a slightly redacted but still serially profane version of the complete booklet.

Here’s a quotation from the Washington Post news story on Bloomberg’s past behavior toward female employees from this past weekend:

After The Post informed the Bloomberg campaign that it planned to put online a copy of the full booklet, spokesman Stu Loeser said, “Mike simply did not say the things somebody wrote in this gag gift, which has been circulating for 30 years and has been quoted in every previous election Mike has been in.” 

At the same time, Loeser added, “Mike openly admits that his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life and some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong.” He did not provide specifics.

In 2001, Bloomberg said he took and passed a polygraph in order to try to refute the allegation that he asked a pregnant female employee to “kill it.” But he provided scanty documentation besides a signed letter from the man who administered the polygraph, according to a March 28, 2001 story in The New York Times.

Bloomberg may for the first time in many years have to answer questions himself about the booklet and past accusations against him during his first Democratic presidential debate in Nevada this evening (Wednesday, February 19).

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