Michael Bloomberg will release three former female employees from non-disclosure agreements regarding offensive comments they said he had made, moving to address an issue that plagued him during Wednesday’s presidential debate.
“I’ve had the company go back over its record and they’ve identified three NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made,” Mr Bloomberg said in a statement on Friday, referring to Bloomberg LP, his eponymous media and financial data company.
“If any of them want to be released from their NDA so they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release.”
He added: “I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.”
The announcement follows a weak response on the matter by Mr Bloomberg in the latest Democratic presidential debate earlier this week.
It was the first time that Mr Bloomberg — a late entrant to the 2020 race — had been forced to confront rivals on the national stage. By his aides’ own admission, Mr Bloomberg underperformed, struggling to find his feet in the first half of the debate, particularly during a back-and-forth with Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator.
Ms Warren quoted the derogatory remarks Mr Bloomberg had allegedly made about some women in the past. She and other candidates blasted Mr Bloomberg on the non-disclosure agreements signed with former female employees, some of whom said they found the Bloomberg workplace to be toxic and unfriendly to women.
Mr Bloomberg refused to agree to other candidates’ calls for him to tear up the non-disclosure agreements, saying: “None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”
In his statement on Friday, Mr Bloomberg said that he had consulted experts this week over best practices for “equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination” in the workplace, and would urge Bloomberg LP’s human resources department to do the same.
“I want my company to be a model for women seeking opportunity and support in their careers. When we support women in the workplace, we advance not just their own feelings of value, but we help them and their families across America live better lives through higher wages,” he said.
As president, he said, he would implement similar policies across the country, supporting policies such as paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage.
Mr Bloomberg was also criticised by his rivals after his campaign released a video that critics said was doctored. In the video, Mr Bloomberg is seen saying that he believed he was the only person on the debate stage to have started a business, and asking rhetorically if that was true. The video then shows footage from the debate of each candidate that appears to show them being stumped by his question. But the footage was taken from other moments during the debate, and woven together in a deliberately misleading manner.
In a separate blow to the presidential hopeful on Friday, Twitter said that it had suspended about 70 accounts, some permanently, that appeared to have been directed to promote his campaign.
According to the LA Times, dozens of pro-Bloomberg accounts, many of which were created in the past two months, were posting identical text, images, links and hashtags — in breach of Twitter’s policies.
“We have taken enforcement action on a group of accounts for violating our rules against platform manipulation and spam,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
Rules on the social media platform stipulate that users cannot “create multiple accounts to post duplicative content” or create fake engagement, for example by paying people for artificial engagement or to amplify messages.
The Bloomberg campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the FT regarding the Twitter account suspensions.
In the days since the debate Mr Bloomberg has been moving to contain the blowback from his shaky performance, which has raised questions about the viability of his candidacy.
A poll from Morning Consult released on Friday found Mr Bloomberg’s net favourability had fallen 20 points since the debate, with 52 per cent of respondents saying they now had a positive opinion of the former New York mayor and 35 per cent saying they had an unfavourable opinion of him.
Before the debate, 61 per cent said they viewed Mr Bloomberg favourably, while just 25 per cent viewed him unfavourably.
Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy in San Francisco and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington