Banking on a boost from Florida, Mike Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and current presidential hopeful, has opened three offices in the Sunshine State, with more expected to pop up ahead of the March 17 Democratic primary.
This past Saturday, Team Bloomberg held a grand opening for the campaign's new office in Little Havana. Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who has been tapped as Bloomberg's campaign co-chair in Florida, was on hand to highlight the newfound proximity between the candidate and Miami's Hispanic community.
"The first office we announce here [in Miami] is in the middle of Little Havana," Diaz told Spanish-language TV reporters. "That speaks to the kind of person we're talking about."
But yesterday — a mere three days later, the internet got wind of newly unearthed audio of Bloomberg lauding the practice of racial profiling in minority neighborhoods not so different from Little Havana.
"People say, 'Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.' Yes, that's true," Bloomberg said in a 2015 speech. "Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that's true. Why do we do it? Because that's where all the crime is."
Comments the candidate made in 2013, saying police "stop whites too much and minorities too little," also gained traction yesterday as #BloombergIsARacist began trending on Twitter.
The remarks drew swift condemnation from Bloomberg's fellow Democratic candidates, including former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and billionaire Tom Steyer. Even President Donald Trump got in on the act, deeming Bloomberg "a total racist" in a short-lived tweet.
The rereleased audio prompted yet another conversation about Bloomberg's troubled history with stop-and-frisk policies. Before announcing his 2020 presidential run last year, Bloomberg publicly apologized for his support of that approach to law enforcement, which he acknowledged had disproportionately affected black and Latino people. Yesterday, he appeared to double down on those sentiments of regret, even as he attempted to distance himself from the policies by maintaining that he "inherited" the widespread practice of stop-and-frisk.
As USA Today recently pointed out, the historically Cuban neighborhood of Little Havana is now a multicultural community of people from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Contrary to popular belief, only one-third of Little Havana's current residents are of Cuban descent. That means the neighborhood looks a lot like Jackson Heights or Washington Heights — two primarily Latino neighborhoods in NYC where stop-and-frisk predominated during the Bloomberg era.
Now Bloomberg must rebrand himself as someone who will champion the needs of the same black and Latino voters he alienated during his time as New York City mayor. In a recent endorsement, Diaz — a longtime Bloomberg ally — wrote that the former mayor "has always been a true friend to the Hispanic/Latino community." However, that doesn't seem to be the case — and the candidate appears to be banking on the prospect that Latino voters in Florida will forgive or forget what really happened in New York.
Staff writer Alexi C. Cardona contributed to this report.
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