- Benjamin Dixonthe host of The Benjamin Dixon Show and podcast. He unearthed and publicized on social media the 2015 audio of Michael Bloomberg speaking at the Aspen Institute. Dixon is also the co-founder of TheNorthStar.com, the revitalized abolitionist newspaper of Frederick Douglass. Dixon’s recent piece for The Guardian is headlined “Pete Buttigieg is the embodiment of white privilege – and black voters know it.”
“#BloombergIsRacist.” That’s the hashtag that’s trending on Twitter since audio of remarks made by 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surfaced earlier this week. In the clip from the 2015 Aspen Institute, Bloomberg is heard defending the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policies, saying, “Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murdered victims fit one MO. You can just take the description, xerox it and pass it out to all the cops.” He continues, “They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York. It’s true in virtually every city.” Bloomberg issued a statement Tuesday saying, “I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized.” But Bloomberg didn’t just inherit stop-and-frisk. During his tenure, use of the practice increased sevenfold. At its height, there were nearly 700,000 stops in 2011 compared to around 100,000 in 2002. The vast majority of those stopped were black or Latino. Bloomberg defended stop-and-frisk as recently as 2019, only apologizing for the practice publicly in November, shortly after entering the presidential race. We speak with the journalist who unearthed the 2015 audio of Bloomberg, Benjamin Dixon, the host of “The Benjamin Dixon Show” and podcast. Dixon is the co-founder of the TheNorthStar.com, the revitalized abolitionist newspaper of Frederick Douglass.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. “#BloombergIsRacist.” That’s the hashtag that’s trending on Twitter since audio of remarks made by the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, the former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, surfaced earlier this week. In the clip from the 2015 Aspen Institute, Bloomberg is heard defending the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policies, saying, quote, “Ninety-five percent of murders, murdered victims fit one MO. You can just take the description, xerox it, pass it out to all the cops.” Listen closely.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one MO. You can just take the description, xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York. It’s true in virtually every city.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Mike Bloomberg saying, quote, “They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city.” He went on to say, quote, “And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”
Bloomberg issued a statement Tuesday saying, quote, “I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized,” unquote.
But Bloomberg did not just inherit stop-and-frisk. During his tenure as mayor, the use of the practice increased sevenfold. During his time in office, the New York police recorded over 5 million stop-and-frisks. The vast majority of those stopped were black and Latino. As mayor of New York, Bloomberg long defended stop-and-frisk. This is Bloomberg speaking during a 2013 interview on WOR radio.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: They just keep saying, “Oh, it’s a disportionate [sic] percentage of a particular ethnic group.” That may be, but it’s not a disportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, thousands of people marched against stop-and-frisk during his three terms in office. Bloomberg defended stop-and-frisk as recently as 2019, only apologizing for the practice publicly in November, shortly after entering the presidential race.
Well, for more, we’re going to Atlanta, Georgia, where we’re joined by Benjamin Dixon, the host of The Benjamin Dixon Show and podcast. He unearthed and publicized the 2015 audio of Michael Bloomberg speaking at the Aspen Institute, that we just played for you. Dixon is the co-founder of TheNorthStar.com, the revitalized abolitionist newspaper of Frederick Douglass.
It’s great to have you with us. Benjamin Dixon, talk about — I mean, it’s very clear that the Bloomberg campaign knew that this was going to drop. They knew there was this recording, however muffled, of his statements at the Aspen Institute from 2015, and they were ready with a statement. Talk about why you released this, how you found it, and what Bloomberg has said in response.
BENJAMIN DIXON: Yes, thanks for having me, Amy. It was online. It was hiding in plain sight. I read several articles about this speech. And what drew my attention to it was the fact that they were looking — that Bloomberg’s team actually requested that the video from the Aspen Institute not be released. The Aspen Institute acquiesced: They did not release the video. But I was hoping to be able to find at least an audio clip. And that’s exactly what I found. It had been online for five years. I was able to isolate it, cut it up and make it a little more audible. And I felt that it just carried a significant impact that the words in the article did not. I felt like people needed to hear his voice say these things.
AMY GOODMAN: And on Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted —
BENJAMIN DIXON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: ”WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!” This was in response to the video — the audio you released. ”WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!” Trump later deleted the post. Interestingly, while campaigning for president in 2016, Trump called for stop-and-frisk to be instituted nationwide.
BENJAMIN DIXON: Right, right. Yeah, the level of hypocrisy that comes from the president isn’t surprising. But that’s really — that exemplifies the weakness that candidates like Michael Bloomberg will have against Donald Trump. His audience has no problem with the fact that he is a racist but he will call someone else a racist. Michael Bloomberg has put himself in a position where he has a long-standing history of problems in New York City, particularly with stop-and-frisk. And so the president will stand on the debate stage and call him a racist, when the rest of America knows that he’s the white-supremacist-in-chief.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, in 2015, Michael Bloomberg representatives asked the Aspen Institute not to distribute footage of his interview? Is that right, Ben?
BENJAMIN DIXON: That’s correct, according to The Aspen Times, which was the article that put me on the search for this audio or for the video. It was the article that showed that his team knew that there was something wrong with what he said. They did not want that video released, because I feel like video would have been even more compelling than the audio. And so, they understood the magnitude of what he said in 2015, and now they’re doing their best to control the damage, now that it has been released.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the response to you releasing this? How viral has it gone? And what has been the response to you?
BENJAMIN DIXON: Well, the response has been overwhelmingly shocked, because there’s something about hearing his words. Like, everyone knew his record with stop-and-frisk in New York City, but it was something different when people were able to hear it. And because of that, the video that I put together with the transcript, or with the subtitles, it’s now at 7.4 million views, which has more views than his announcement, than Michael Bloomberg’s announcement video on Twitter. And so, I just think a lot of people are appreciative, and I’m grateful to have been able to do this, because a lot of us feel like it’s a David-versus-Goliath situation with a person with billions of dollars to spend in this campaign able to flood the internet with advertisements, television with advertisements, portraying himself in a way that a lot of people in New York City would disagree with.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to CNN, the politics correspondent Cristina Alesci commenting on the 2015 audio of Bloomberg unearthed by you, Ben.
CRISTINA ALESCI: So, here’s the thing. Important context here. We don’t have the full tape. So, this is obviously snippets that have been released. The podcaster and the writer that released this sound is clearly a Bernie supporter. If you look at his Twitter feed, he’s very anti-Bloomberg. He is promoting a hashtag, #BloombergIsARacist. We don’t know how he got the sound, to begin with. So, lots of questions are being asked, especially on the timing of this, as you noted in your introduction. A poll yesterday shows Bloomberg rising in the polls, and particularly strong support in the African-American community.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s CNN’s Cristina Alesci, who did not disclose that she’s a former Bloomberg News reporter. Benjamin Dixon, if you can respond to what she said?
BENJAMIN DIXON: Yeah, you know, this is the tactic that they’re using to try to insulate Mayor Bloomberg from his own words. Right? There are questions. And the questions is: Does he still stand by what he said in 2015? Because if you look at his apology, the apology that he gave just before running for president, it does not match the intensity of his words in 2015. What he said in 2015 is a deeply held conviction about black and brown young men in the city of New York. What he gave us in terms of an apology is really milquetoast, and it doesn’t match up the thoughtfulness that he’s placed in his worldview.
And so, he sent out — well, I don’t know if he sent out Cristina, but she was part of his organization. But apparently there’s other people who are going out trying to cast doubt on my motivations and my intentions and say that there are a lot of questions. Well, really, the questions aren’t about where this came from. It was online, and some simple, basic journalistic research would have revealed it. And so, the real question is: Where does he stand today? His apology really pointed towards Donald Trump, not towards his own — taking his own personal responsibility for what he said. So, the real question is: Where does Michael Bloomberg stand on this today? Where does he stand on the words that he said and the actions that he took that harmed so many people in the city of New York?
AMY GOODMAN: And your response to those who say you’re just trying to take down Bloomberg because you support Bernie Sanders?
BENJAMIN DIXON: So, I’m Johnny-come-lately with my support for Bernie Sanders. I supported him in 2016. I took my time deciding whether or not I would support him this time, because, honestly, I liked Elizabeth Warren. But yes, I do support Bernie Sanders, and that’s my right as a citizen. That has nothing to do with the fact that, no matter who gets the nomination, I don’t believe it should be a billionaire oligarch who is able to buy his way into this campaign, who has a history of racism, transphobia, as well as classism. Mike Bloomberg has a lot to answer for, and he’s not going to get away with it simply by asking — or, declaring that I’m a Bernie bro, and so my opinion doesn’t matter. It doesn’t work like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Benjamin Dixon, I want to thank you for joining us, host of The Benjamin Dixon Show and podcast, speaking to us from Atlanta, Georgia.