During a private event hosted by Goldman Sachs in June 2016, former New York City Mayor and now-2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg made a number of damning remarks about his relationship with the banking industry, the merits of a president extending bribes to powerful people in the form of gifts and his distaste for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) progressivism.
According to an audio tape that captured a Q&A with Bloomberg at the event, first reported by CNN on Monday, the founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP kicked off his remarks by calling the wealthy bankers at the event “my peeps.”
He then explained that he decided not to run for president in that year’s election because “to start, my first campaign platform would be to defend the banks, and you know how well that’s gonna sell in this country.”
“But seriously, somebody’s gotta stand up and do what we need: A healthy banking system that’s going to take risks because that’s what creates the jobs for everybody, and nobody’s willing to say that,” Bloomberg said.
The billionaire asserted that the growing progressive movement was “just as scary” as the far-right movement, pointing to now-2020 rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who has worked to rein in the finance industry throughout her tenure in the Senate.
“Elizabeth Warren on one side,” Bloomberg said. “And whoever you want to pick on the Republicans on the right side?”
The former mayor also argued that bribing Congress was key to pushing one’s agenda and that presidents ought to cozy up with influential figures.
“Congress is really something you just have to have on your side if you want to accomplish major things, and the ways you get Congress to work for you is the ways you deal with your family: You bribe them,” he told the event attendees. “You say to your kid, you say to your kid to ‘clean your room or you don’t get your allowance.'”
“That’s a bribe, I’m sorry,” he said when the audience murmured.
The billionaire went on to assert that there are “ways” for a president to “build a relationship” by sending gifts to powerful players or inviting them to play golf. He lamented that unlike Bill Clinton, then-President Barack Obama “really does not like doing that.”
“I think we need a president with executive experience who will know how to do that,” Bloomberg said.
And on the topic of Obama, Bloomberg told the audience that his 2012 endorsement of the incumbent president was “very backhanded,” a comment that runs in contrast with Bloomberg’s 2020 ads that attempt to tie the billionaire to Obama and tout how they “worked together” on certain issues.
The Bloomberg campaign did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. Bloomberg spokesperson Stu Loeser told CNN that the billionaire’s comment about defending banks “was a joke.”
“What you hear in these remarks are a combination of jokes and detailed explanations of ways to make our government better that are far beyond what the current occupant of the Oval Office could read, let alone think,” Loeser said.
Warren responded to the recording on Tuesday by simply tweeting a link to her fundraising site with the URL “ScareMichaelBloomberg.com”
Listen to the audio below (Bloomberg’s comment about banks begins at the start of the tape):