Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg addresses a news conference after launching his presidential bid in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., November 25, 2019.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Democratic presidential contender Mike Bloomberg on Friday offered to release women from three non-disclosure agreements with his media company if they wanted, a move that came two days after he was torched at a debate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren over his practice of using such deals.
Bloomberg also said that in the future his company will no longer offer NDAs “to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.”
In a statement on his campaign website, Bloomberg said that his offer of release from NDAs is for women who had complained “about comments they said I had made.”
His statement did not address the question of why he is not offering to release any other person who signed a non-disclosure agreement with Bloomberg LP from such a pact.
“I want my company to be a model for women seeking opportunity and support in their careers,” Bloomberg said.
The former New York mayor was blasted by the Massachusetts Democrat Warren at Wednesday presidential debate in Las Vegas for his use of NDAs, his refusal to release women from them and his alleged history of crude comments about women.
Bloomberg, in his statement Friday, also said he has asked human resource workers at his company “to consult with experts, as I myself have done in recent days, and review and reform our policies when necessary with regard to equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination, and other legal tools that prevent cultural change.”
The campaign and Bloomberg LP had no immediate comment when contacted by CNBC.
A number of women who have sued Bloomberg’s company have described in those legal actions comments he allegedly made.
One women, Sekkio Sakai Garrison, claimed that when she told Bloomberg that she was pregnant he quipped, “Kill it,” and then said, “Great! Number 16!,” referring to the number of women at the firm who were either also pregnant or on maternity leave. Bloomberg’s spokesman told The Washington Post he never made those statements, but Bloomberg did reach a financial settlement with Garrison that was confidential.
Another woman, The Post noted in its story last week, sued Bloomberg in 1996, claiming that he and others at the company engaged in a patter of sexually degrading women and that Bloomberg had said things about workers such as “I’d like to do that piece of meat.” The lawsuit was later dismissed after the woman’s lawyer reportedly failed to meet a filing deadline.
In Wednesday’s debate, when Warren had called on Bloomberg to release female employees from NDAs, he said, “we have a very few nondisclosure agreements.”
Warren then pounced, “How many is that?”
Bloomberg said, “Let me finish.”
“None of them accused me of doing anything other than – maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said, to groans from the audience.
Warren earlier in the debate stung the ultra-rich Bloomberg, who was making his first appearance in a Democratic presidential debate after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and other efforts to increase his standings in the polls.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” Warren said.
“A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
In his statement Friday, Bloomberg said, “I’ve had the company go back over its record and they’ve identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made.”
“If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release,” he said.
“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,” Bloomberg said.
“I recognize that NDAs, particularly when they are used in the context of sexual harassment and sexual assault, promote a culture of silence in the workplace and contribute to a culture of women not feeling safe or supported,” he said.
“It is imperative that when problems occur, workplaces not only address the specific incidents, but the culture and practices that led to those incidents. And then leaders must act.”
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.