Trump, Who Loves Stop-and-Frisk, Says Bloomberg Is a Racist for Defending Stop-and-Frisk

The president refers to himself the “least racist person in the world.”

Anthony Behar/AP

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It’s the day of the New Hampshire primary and 2020 Democratic hopeful, former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, is trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons. On Monday, podcast host Benjamin P. Dixon released leaked audio of a 2015 Aspen Institute speech in which Bloomberg offered what can only be described as a racist defense of New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. The New York City Police Department policy of detaining, questioning, and searching people on the street for guns or drugs routinely lead to a disproportionate amount of Black and brown New Yorkers being targeted by the police. It was roundly criticized by activists and communities of color, and Bloomberg himself issued a long overdue apology for the policy in November. But President Donald Trump was always a big fan of stop-and-frisk—until now.

On Tuesday, #BloombergIsARacist began trending on Twitter, and the president, who has often referred to himself the “least racist person in the world” announced with all-caps astonishment, “WOW BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!” in a now-deleted tweet in a response to the leaked audio.

He also retweeted a tweet about Bloomberg being a racist that included a picture of the president with the former mayor. Despite the user changing their Twitter name to “BERNIE BEATS TRUMP” this tweet has yet to be deleted.

Bloomberg seized on the opportunity to reframe the conversation, saying in a statement, “President Trump’s deleted tweet is the latest example of his endless efforts to divide Americans.” He added that he regrets using the policy and noted that he had apologized in November before entering the race. “In contrast, President Trump inherited a country marching towards greater equality and divided us with racist appeals and hateful rhetoric.”

Here’s where the controversy began. In the 2015 audio clip, Bloomberg can be heard defending the policy during a speech at the Aspen Institute. “Ninety-five percent murderers and murder victims fit one M.O.,” he said. “You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16-25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city.” The former mayor then went on to say that all crime takes place in communities of color. “Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods,” he explained. “Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.” Bloomberg requested that the audio not be released.

As usual, the president’s cronies piled on. Trump’s son, Donald Jr. tweeted the leaked speech using the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist. Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager also weighed in without a hint of irony. “So a big test for [Bloomberg News] today,” he tweeted referring to Bloomberg’s news outlet. “Will they write their boss is a complete racist. This video is horrible.” But while they gleefully attacked Bloomberg, they are conveniently ignoring the fact that the president once heaped praise on Bloomberg, the NYPD, and their stop-and-frisk policy. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane to see the president’s very special affection for stop and frisk.

In 2012, he said he “fully supports” the mayor and the NYPD, who presumably kept New Yorkers safe since the September 11 attacks.

In 2013 he declared that stop-and-frisk works. As the backlash grew, he defended the tactic via Twitter for the next few months.

Again, he praised former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for “keeping NYC safe.”

He even went on to say that he would gladly be stopped-and-frisk.

Fifteen minutes later, he decided that stop-and-frisk was so great that other cities should get in on the action.

Even though stop-and-frisk was unfairly targeting people of color, Trump said the policy was keeping people safe violent criminals and jihadists.

Trump also suggested ending stop-and-frisk would lead to crime increases and a terrorist attack—and NYC politicians would have no one to blame but themselves.

But then all that love for Bloomberg just…stopped. Donald Trump changed his tune once the former mayor endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. But Trump drew a distinction between the mayor and his signature policy and encouraged Chicago to adopt stop-and-frisk in 2018.

Last Friday, perhaps spooked by Bloomberg’s rise in the polls, Trump retweeted CNN commentator and criminal justice reform advocate Van Jones saying Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy was a “horror show” for Black and Latino New Yorkers. And then there was the now-deleted tweet.

All this outrage over Bloomberg is one part of Trump’s effort to reach Black voters. The Trump campaign launched the Black Voices for Trump, an outfit headed by failed presidential candidate and pizza mogul Herman Cain. At a recent event in a Black community in Cleveland,  Darrell Scott, a Black conservative pastor and advisory board member of Blacks for Trump ran a cash giveaway in which attendees drew tickets from a bin and the winner walked away with hundreds of dollars. But so far, the effort seems to be lacking traction. Perhaps, this major pivot against stop-and-frisk and the attacks on Bloomberg are a new way to win more Black votes. All that’s necessary would be to overlook Trump’s seven year defense of stop-and-frisk.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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