NEW YORK (AP) – Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks his mind and that is a big part of his cachet in anything-goes New York.
But new details from a sexual harassment lawsuit he settled in 2000 and other racy comments over the years show how his blunt style could prove a liability if he runs for president as an independent.
Before his election as mayor in 2001, Bloomberg was the target of a sexual harassment suit by a female executive who accused him of making repeated raunchy sexual comments while he was chief executive of his financial company, Bloomberg LP.
Among the allegations in the complaint:
• Bloomberg asked the woman who sued if she was giving her boyfriend “good” oral sex.
• He said “I’d like to do that” and “That’s a great piece of a–” to describe women in the office.
• When he found out the woman was pregnant, he told her “Kill it!” and said “Great! Number 16!” – an apparent reference to the number of women in the company who were pregnant or had maternity-related status.
Bloomberg denied the accusations. Both sides were barred from commenting because of confidentiality agreements. Stu Loeser, the mayor’s spokesman, said Friday he had no comment for this story.
The suit was a minor annoyance for Bloomberg during the mayoral race in 2001; opponents in that first race tried, with little success, to draw attention to the allegations. It was not an issue in his 2005 re-election campaign.
But the suit and other potential embarrassments resulting from Bloomberg’s tendency to speak his mind are largely unknown to the rest of the country and are certain to be re-examined if the billionaire media mogul undertakes a third-party, self-financed presidential campaign for 2008.
Bloomberg has denied having any plans to seek the presidency.
Yet he recently left the Republican Party to become an independent and has increased his out-of-state travel, increasing his national visibility.
The harassment suit was filed in 1997 by former Bloomberg LP sales executive Sekiko Sakai Garrison. Bloomberg adamantly denied all the allegations in the suit. He settled the case in 2000 for an undisclosed amount without admitting any wrongdoing.
During his first mayoral campaign, aides told reporters that Bloomberg had passed a polygraph test in which he had denied the allegations. That year, his campaign refused to release the actual test. Loeser said Friday the mayor’s office would not provide a copy of the original polygraph.
Bloomberg founded Bloomberg LP in the early 1980s to provide financial information in a way that had never been available before on Wall Street. According to Garrison’s suit, Bloomberg and other male managers at the company made “repeated and unwelcome” sexual comments, overtures and gestures, contributing to an offensive, locker-room culture.
Comments attributed in the suit to Bloomberg include: “I’d f— that in a second,” “I’d like to do that,” and “That’s a great piece of a–.”
Once, according to the suit, Bloomberg pointed out a young female employee and told Garrison, “If you looked like that, I would do you in a second.”
The suit also accused Bloomberg of referring to Mexican clients as “jumping beans” and saying of another female colleague who was having trouble finding a nanny that “all you need is some black who doesn’t even have to speak English to rescue it from a burning building.”
Some elements of the case were made public at the time. An individual with direct knowledge of the case provided additional details.
The individual said Bloomberg admitted in a deposition, which never was made public, that he had said the words “I’d do her” about Garrison and other women. When asked during the deposition what he thought that expression meant, Bloomberg said it means to have a personal relationship, according to the individual, who is barred from discussing the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Garrison sought $15 million in the suit. She is bound by a confidentiality agreement and declined comment to the AP.
Garrison, who worked at Bloomberg LP from 1989 until 1995, left the company, unable to return to work after Bloomberg allegedly made the remarks about her pregnancy, according to her suit. The company contended Garrison was fired.
Besides Garrison’s suit, two other suits were filed in the late 1990s that accused the company of sexual harassment; one was dismissed and the other was withdrawn.
The people involved in those suits also are bound by confidentiality agreements.
Bloomberg is often praised for his straight-talking, no-nonsense style. Since he took office in 2002, his language in public settings has sometimes risen to a level that some may find blunt, but rarely offensive.
When asked recently whether New Yorkers should be concerned about a foiled plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, his exasperated response was that people should “get a life!”
“You can’t sit there and worry about everything,” he said.