‘I’d Do Her’: Mike Bloomberg and the Underbelly of #MeToo

Disparaging comments. Demeaning jokes. As the mogul reportedly considers a 2020 presidential run, it remains an open question whether his long-alleged history of undermining women will affect his chances.

If you find yourself seeking, in these turbulent times, evidence of steadiness among the chaos—proof that even as the seas rise and the winds whip and the world that was gives way to the world that will be, some things will remain the same—here is a fact that seems always to be true: Mike Bloomberg is considering a run for president.

The newest version of the old truth comes from an article published this week in The New York Times: The billionaire former mayor, the paper announces, validating the rumors, is again considering a presidential run—this time, however, as a Democrat. It would not be an easy candidacy. “Mr. Bloomberg,” the Times points out, “is plainly an uncomfortable match for a progressive coalition passionately animated by concern for economic inequality and the civil rights of women and minorities.” Indeed: In an interview with the paper, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk. And, voicing “doubt” about some of the revelations that have been made in the course of #MeToo, Bloomberg mentions as an example Charlie Rose, who had broadcast his show from a space in Bloomberg’s corporate offices. He declined to say, specifically, whether he believed the many allegations against Rose. “Let the court system decide,” the former mayor said.

What is not fully addressed in the Times article, however—and what is not fully explored in the many similar pieces that consider the current iteration of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential ambitions—is a series of stories about him, accumulated over decades, that suggests in the aggregate a distinct pattern when it comes to his treatment of women:

  • reports of disparaging comments made about women’s bodies and appearances.
  • Allegations of a deeply sexist work environment at the company that Bloomberg founded and, for many years, ran. Stories that linger like exhaust in the air every time Mike Bloomberg is mentioned as, potentially, the next president of the United States.
This is a time in America of accountabilities that are—this is the most generous way to put it—unevenly distributed. Some people bear the heaviest and cruelest of burdens; others move through the world with easy indemnity. Christine Blasey Ford makes an allegation of sexual violence against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; she is attacked as a victimizer. The man who last sought the presidency of the United States admitted to—bragged about—his own history of assaulting women; he won the office nonetheless. Exhaust, exhausting: The impunities form their own kind of fog.

The stories about Mike Bloomberg, though—stories, told through lawsuits and journalistic accounts, that involve allegations not of physical abuse but of more insidious manifestations of misogyny—ask broader questions about the ways electoral politics and basic morality will continue to tangle with each other as #MeToo marches onward. Will the stories (many of which Bloomberg has publicly denied as the inventions of money-hungry opportunists) have any bearing on his potential presidential candidacy? Will the Americans (and specifically now, apparently, the Democrats) of the current moment consider allegations involving casual misogyny, on the personal level and at the institutional, to be politically disqualifying? Will they consider those claims, indeed, to be worth discussing at all? Or will they dismiss them as the predicable collateral of the thing Americans are conditioned, still, to value above all: the successful accumulation of power and wealth?

From 1996 to 1997, four women filed sexual-harassment or discrimination suits against Bloomberg the company. One of the suits included the following allegation: When Sekiko Sakai Garrison, a sales representative at the company, told Mike Bloomberg she was pregnant, he replied, “Kill it!” (Bloomberg went on, she alleged, to mutter, “Great, No. 16”—a reference, her complaint said, to the 16 women at the company who were then pregnant.) To these allegations, Garrison added another one: Even prior to her pregnancy, she claimed, Bloomberg had antagonized her by making disparaging comments about her appearance and sexual desirability. “What, is the guy dumb and blind?” he is alleged to have said upon seeing her wearing an engagement ring. “What the hell is he marrying you for?”

Bloomberg denied having made those comments, claiming that he passed a lie-detector test validating the denial but declining to release the results. (He also reportedly left Garrison a voicemail upon hearing that she’d been upset by the comments about her pregnancy: “I didn’t say it, but if I said it, I didn’t mean it.”) What Bloomberg reportedly did concede is that he had said of Garrison and other women,I’d do her.” In making the concession, however, he insisted that he had believed that to “do” someone meant merely “to have a personal relationship” with them.

That suit was settled in 2000; its terms were not disclosed. Other suits made similar claims. In a 1998 filing, Mary Ann Olszewski reported that “male employees from Mr. Bloomberg on down” routinely belittled women at the company—a pattern of harassment, she said, that culminated in her being raped in a Chicago hotel room by a Bloomberg executive who was also her direct superior. The case was dismissed (not, apparently, on its merits, but rather because Olszewski’s attorney had missed the deadlines to respond to a motion to end the case). Before it was, though, in a deposition relating to the suit, Bloomberg testified that he wouldn’t consider Olszewski’s rape allegation to be genuine unless there were “an unimpeachable third-party witness” to corroborate her claims. (Asked by a lawyer how such a person might happen to witness a rape, Bloomberg replied, “There are times when three people are together.”)

“Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot” is how The Village Voice summed it up in 2001. “Anti-woman obnoxiousness,” Cord Jefferson, then at Gawkercalled it in 2013. Part of that obnoxiousness involves the many reports related to what Bloomberg once told a reporter: “I like theater, dining, and chasing women.” (He elaborated: “Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It’s a wet dream.”) In his 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg, the mogul bragged about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” during his years working as a Wall Street stock trader in the 1960s and ’70s. He is reported to have said, of the computer terminal that made his fortune, “It will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”

There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“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.’”) Bloomberg, quoted by colleagues as saying, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.” Bloomberg being asked in a deposition, “Have you ever made a comment to the effect that you would like to ‘do that piece of meat,’ or I’d ‘do her in a second’?” Bloomberg replying, “I don’t recall ever using the term meat at all.”

These reports suggest the extent of the blind spot. They also suggest, however, the expansive underbelly of #MeToo: the easy entitlements by which men come to see women as existing in part for their pleasure. The stories told of Bloomberg paint a picture of self-centric power, of moral tautologies, of limited empathies. (Joyce Purnick, in her 2009 biography, Mike BloombergMoney, Power, Politics, describes a man who is “curt, profane, cranky, and willful,” and, relatedly, “allergic to introspection.”) And, set as they are in the towers of the American corporation, places where power is assumed to justify itself, they suggest precisely the kind of trickle-down inequalities that politicians in particular might be in a position to combat. Sexism, for one, converted into a system: There is so much that is summoned—of hateful history, of the way that the past insinuates itself on the present—when a powerful man sizes up a less powerful woman in his employ and says, “I’d do her.”

Earlier this month, another suit involving Mike Bloomberg was (very briefly) in the news. The mogul was reinstated as a defendant in a 2016 civil suit brought against Bloomberg the company by a former employee: She claims that in addition to the hostile work environment and sexual discrimination she experienced at the company, she was raped by a manager at Bloomberg when she was 22. (Lawyers for Bloomberg and the now-terminated manager deny her allegations.) The suit also holds the majority owner of Bloomberg liable for the woman’s claims. The judge in the case, who had previously ruled that Mike Bloomberg had no immediate connection to the woman’s claims, reconsidered his ruling; the case will move forward with Bloomberg listed as a defendant.

Bloomberg has traditionally dismissed the lawsuits filed against him and his company as publicity stunts and money grabs and, in the fullest sense, nuisances. (“What’s happening,” he explained of one such case, “is that because I’m so visible, that obviously I’m a target.”) To run for office, however, is to make oneself a different kind of target; that is the exchange that is made when a person seeks such direct power over other people’s lives. The story published in the Times this week is a trial balloon for a potential presidential candidacy; it is also testing, however, another thing. What are voters willing to tolerate, at this point, in those who propose to lead them? What are they willing to ignore? What has changed since the last time Mike Bloomberg ran for public office? And what—the world being, in the end, full of truths that remain so stubbornly true—hasn’t changed at all?

Generational Divide Among Evangelicals Shakes Prominent Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary tries to heal rifts after scandal and to unite students and donors with widely divergent views

FORT WORTH, Texas—After the Rev. Adam W. Greenway stepped to the podium during his inauguration as the ninth president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he acknowledged the tumult that had engulfed the school in recent years.

The previous president was fired. Enrollment plummeted, and the training ground for many of the nation’s most famous pastors found itself at the center of a debate over the treatment of women in the church.

“I cannot change the past,” he said. “For any way in which we have fallen short, I am sorry.”

A generational gulf is threatening to split evangelical Christianity.

While older evangelicals have become a political force preaching traditional values, younger ones are deviating from their parents on issues like same-sex marriage, Israel, the role of women, and support for President Trump.

Dr. Adam W. Greenway, the ninth president of Southwest Seminary. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

For Southwestern to thrive again, Dr. Greenway must attract more young people without alienating their parents. At stake: not only the health of the 111-year-old school but also of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest, most powerful Protestant denomination, whose membership has been falling for more than a decade.

The shift under way at the school is dramatic. Dr. Greenway’s predecessor, Rev. Paige Patterson, was a hero of the conservative resurgence, which swung the Southern Baptist Convention to the theological and political right. During 15 years as president of Southwestern, Dr. Patterson turned the campus into a reflection of his brand of evangelicalism.

He preached that scripture is inerrant and that women should submit themselves to the leadership of men, both at home and in church. He required members of his administration to carry firearms, for security reasons, he said. His office was filled with taxidermy. Stained glass windows depicting “heroes of the conservative resurgence,” including Dr. Patterson and his wife, were installed in the chapel.

Last year, Dr. Patterson was fired following allegations that he mishandled accusations of sexual assault by former students.

Dr. Patterson, in an email, said he handled the alleged assaults appropriately. “Candidly, I have no idea why I was released,” he said.

As religious affiliation has fallen among young people, evangelicals have debated how they should frame their message.

Religious affiliation of U.S. adults by birth year

Christian

Non-Christian

Unaffiliated

0%

25

50

75

100

1928-45

1946-64

1965-80

1981-96

Denominations of U.S. Protestants

2009

2018-19

Born again or evangelical

59

56%

44

41

Not born again

or evangelical

Source: Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2009 and January 2018-July 2019

When Dr. Greenway, 41 years old, arrived in February, veteran professors were replaced, and the stained glass windows were removed.

Dr. Greenway said he is committed to all of the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative principles but argued that a change in tone from the past administration was necessary.

“My immediate predecessor envisioned this being more like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” he said in an interview. “I want people to think more like Southwest Airlines. A happy place. A national brand.”

When asked to respond, Dr. Patterson said, “Every man is entitled to his own view of my work, and I wish Dr. Greenway only God’s best.”

Enrollment has jumped. But fundraising has taken a hit, leaving a $3 million hole in the budget when Dr. Greenway arrived.

A portrait of Dr. Greenway’s predecessor, the Rev. Paige Patterson, hangs in the school rotunda. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

A group of more than two dozen donors, who say they have collectively given at least $50 million to the school, sent a letter to the trustees, saying they would withhold further giving until they got answers about Dr. Patterson’s ouster. Gary Loveless, a former trustee who helped author the letter, said he never received a reply.

We don’t treat our prophets that way,” Mr. Loveless said of Dr. Patterson’s removal. “I think there was a bigger agenda.”

Few played a greater role in making modern evangelicalism what it is today than Dr. Patterson.

He championed several tenets that Southern Baptists now consider sacrosanct, including “complementarianism,” the belief that men and women have different God-given roles. In 2000, during his tenure as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination banned women from serving as senior pastors.

After being appointed president of Southwestern in 2003, he started a homemaking program for female students.

The iconic dome of Southwest Seminary, where Dr. Greenway arrived in February. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fundraising skyrocketed, as did new construction on campus.

But enrollment dropped from 2,138 full-time equivalent students in 2003-4 to 1,393 in 2017-18. Over the same period, overall membership in the Southern Baptist Convention fell from 16.3 million to 14.8 million.

Dr. Patterson’s dramatic exit convulsed the Southern Baptist Convention, turning the school into a nexus of the continuing debate over women’s role in the church.

Karen Swallow Prior, a Southern Baptist professor at Liberty University, said Dr. Patterson’s ouster was a step toward changing “the misogynistic, sexist culture of the SBC.” She added that there is “a dramatic shift” among younger evangelicals who are more eager “to embrace the idea of women as leaders, both in the church and in the culture.”

Others saw Dr. Patterson’s ouster as an ideologically-motivated takedown.

A statue of Jesus in a garden area on campus. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The previous generation, their priority was missions and evangelism and preaching,” said Rev. Wayne Dickard, a former Southwestern trustee. The new generation, he said, “is far more interested in the social justice movement.”

The theological conflict is playing out in new controversies on campus. Last week Southwestern officials showed trustees a letter from an assistant to Dr. Patterson to a donor advising how to ask the school to return his money, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The letter criticized female professors as unqualified and not sufficiently committed to complementarianism and bemoaned efforts to erase the Pattersons’ legacy from campus, including removing their dog’s tombstone.

The assistant, Z. Scott Colter, said the Pattersons have encouraged people to keep giving to Southwestern and the donor had asked for help making sure the money was used for its intended purpose. The donor confirmed his account.

Philip Levant, a member of the presidential search committee that hired Dr. Greenway, said trustees were looking for someone who could both sort out the school’s finances and overhaul its public image.

In recent years, “the seminary was known more for what it was against than what it was for,” Mr. Levant said.

Dr. Greenway graduated from Southwestern in 2002, the year before his predecessor’s arrival. PHOTO: LOUIS DELUCA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Dr. Greenway grew up in a Florida family he describes as not particularly religious. But like millions of others during the 1980s and ’90s, he found his way into a Southern Baptist church and was baptized as a teenager. He graduated from Southwestern in 2002, the year before Dr. Patterson’s arrival.

Though he supports complementarianism, Dr. Greenway said he is trying to create a big tent at Southwestern.

Partly, that means emphasizing what women can do, not what they can’t, including “celebrating women as bible teachers and ministry leaders.”

He has also been pushing for ideological diversity, making sure the school is welcoming to Reformed evangelicals—who believe God elects those who will be saved—as well as those who believe that salvation is available to all.

New enrollment this fall is up 33% over the previous three years.

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One of the new students is Jacki King, a minister to women at her Arkansas church who transferred to Southwestern this year. She said the shifting tone on gender is what drew her.

“As a woman who deeply believes in theology and evangelism, I want to be able to be part of that,” she said.

Here’s what’s next for Cecile Richards

As HuffPost’s Emily Peck pointed out, when CNN held a marathon forum Monday night, in which five of the contenders answered questions one by one before an audience of college students, only the three women — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — were queried about sexism and the pay disparity between men and women. Once again, women’s issues were consigned to female candidates, rather than being treated as a set of problems that ought to matter as much to contenders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the other two candidates on the program

.. In the eyes of the antiabortion movement, Richards was the elegantly dressed, politically savvy personification of evil. But during her years as Planned Parenthood’s leader, its membership nearly quadrupled, from 2.5 million supporters to more than 11 million. After she stepped down about a year ago, there was much speculation — and hope, among her admirers — that she would run for office.

.. But instead, Richards — who spent her years after graduating from Brown University working to unionize low-paid hotel and hospital workers — is returning to her political roots as an organizer. On Monday, she will launch a new organization called Supermajority that seeks not only to change that mind-set but also to provide resources and training for female activists across the spectrum of backgrounds and life experiences.