The campaigns of President Trump and Michael Bloomberg traded barbs Monday after another resurfaced audio clip appeared to show the three-time New York City mayor belittling farmers and factory workers at a university forum in 2016.
During a 2016 sit-down discussion at Oxford’s Said Business School, Bloomberg, who has never farmed, claimed he could ‘teach anybody in this room” to be a farmer.
"The agrarian society lasted 3,000 years and we could teach processes. I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer," he said. "It's a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that. Then we had 300 years of the industrial society. You put the piece of metal on the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow and you can have a job. And we created a lot of jobs. At one point, 98 percent of the world worked in agriculture, now it's 2 percent in the United States."
Bloomberg continued: "Now comes the information economy and the information economy is fundamentally different because it's built around replacing people with technology and the skill sets that you have to learn are how to think and analyze, and that is a whole degree level different. You have to have a different skill set, you have to have a lot more gray matter.”
The comments prompted a bipartisan backlash: People for Bernie, an organization backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee, slammed the 77-year-old billionaire as an “oligarch” who has repeatedly insulted the middle class and the working class.
Bloomberg’s campaign spokesperson Stu Loeser, however, blamed the unflattering audio on allies of Trump, suggesting they took the video out of context. Although shorter clips were circulating on social media, the full context of Bloomberg’s comments is reflected in this report.
“Mike wasn't talking about today's farmers at all, and Team Trump is deliberately misleading Americans because Donald Trump’s erratic policies have devastated American farms, including a 20 percent increase in U.S. farm bankruptcies last year,” Loeser said.
He did not address other aspects of Bloomberg’s comments, like farmers and factory workers needing more “gray matter,” a reference to brainpower, to do jobs in the information economy.
Trump’s reelection campaign denied that it was responsible for editing and circulating the remarks.
“It’s enlightening to know how much disdain he holds for farmers and factory workers,” Trump’s campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “He’s flattering himself if he thinks we’re paying that much attention to him. He’s got a bunch of other Democrats to worry about, and besides that, his worst enemies are himself and his public record.”
The video comes just one week after Bloomberg came under fire for two separate resurfaced audio clips that revealed the 77-year-old billionaire defending "stop and frisk," the controversial policing strategy that disproportionately targeted men of color, and blaming the end of "redlining," a discriminatory policy that cut off certain neighborhoods and potential homebuyers from mortgage lending opportunities for the financial crisis.
“Ninety-five percent of murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O.,” he said in 2015. “You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, 16 to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city … And that’s where the real crime is.”
Bloomberg’s comments drew widespread media coverage, prompting a fresh push by the former mayor to apologize for his past embrace of “stop and frisk.”
“By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95 percent, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner,” Bloomberg said in the statement. “I regret that, and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities.”