Michael Bloomberg launched his presidential campaign under the pretense of his apology for championing the racist stop-and-frisk policy that empowered the NYPD to harass mostly Black and brown New Yorkers simply because of the color of their skin. The former mayor of New York City has insisted he now realizes the error of his ways with that policing policy that was fueled by implicit biases.
But at a recent campaign event in Alabama, it seems that the truth is actually Bloomberg has “no idea” about the true effects that his NYPD’s racist policing practices had on their Black and brown targets. That was because Bloomberg all but shrugged while openly admitting he was clueless about whether he thought the NYPD acted in good faith when they arrested the Central Park 5, the group of Black and brown teens more appropriately known as The Exonerated 5 who were falsely accused and imprisoned between five and 12 years stemming from allegations of raping a white woman in the 1980s.
Yes, that’s right — the former two-term mayor of the largest American city with a notorious police department that he oversaw said he had “no idea.”
On Monday, CBS News’ Tim Perry asked Bloomberg during a Q&A session at a campaign stop in Birmingham about his campaign’s approach to the topic of race. Perry reminded the former mayor that when he was presiding over City Hall, he defended how the NYPD handled the case. Bloomberg was then asked if he still felt that he thought the NYPD “acted in good faith” when they charged 15-year-old Antron McCray, 14-year-old Kevin Richardson, 15-year-old Yusef Salaam; 14-year-old Raymond Santana and 16-year-old Korey Wise.
Here’s how Bloomberg answered:
“I really have no idea,” Bloomberg began before inexplicably blaming his admitted ignorance about a defining case in New York City on being “away from government” for a long time. Bloomberg went on to say that “apparently, the courts ruled that [the Exonerated 5] … did not commit a crime,” adding that “we just have to accept” their exoneration.
That certainly didn’t sound like a rousing endorsement of the young men’s exonerations that were based on a decided lack of proof that the NYPD and the local DA’s office still testified they had.
To be clear, the NYPD interrogated the teenagers without their parents or lawyers present. The Grio also reminded readers that two cops involved were still defending NYPD tactics after last year’s debut of “When They See Us,” the dramatized version of the story on Netflix.
When pressed on whether he had changed his stance now, Bloomberg ultimately reverted to his talking point that he “really can’t respond because I don’t remember.”
Bloomberg then told the reporter questioning him that “there’s been plenty written about it” and advised Perry to “go and read some of that.”
Watch Bloomberg’s entire car wreck of an answer below.
Perhaps even more troubling than Bloomberg’s refusal to readily admit the NYPD was corrupt in its handling of the Central Park 5 case is the fact that he is saying he can’t remember it. In a time where the president’s mental faculties have been repeatedly questioned, claiming he can’t remember a high-profile case that demanded international attention could be a red flag for all voters — but it should be a red flag for Black voters, in particular, being courted by Bloomberg.
This was far from Bloomberg’s first racial blunder on the presidential campaign trail. Just last month, he was called out for labeling fellow Democratic candidate Cory Booker as “well-spoken,” which is a common dog whistle of a racist trope. Bloomberg received instant backlash for that comment. Prior to that, Bloomberg lied that “no one asked” him about stop and frisk until he was running for president.
This is America.