Bloomberg's 2016 remarks about trans rights in Midwest draw criticism

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who recently rolled out his LGBTQ platform, is facing criticism after a 2016 video re-emerged this week, showing him using the term “man in a dress” to describe a hypothetical transgender woman.

In the clip, which was recorded at an Oxford University event on Dec. 8, 2016, Bloomberg discusses the challenge of appealing to people on the opposite side of a political divide, in this case, Brexit.

Bloomberg said the division between people like himself and attendees at the Oxford event, whom he described as “the intelligentsia,” and “the vast bulk of people,” was a divergence over “equality and protecting individual rights that make no sense to the vast bulk of people.”

“They are not opposed to you having some rights, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between us believing the rights of the individual come first and the general belief around the world, I think it’s fair to say, that the rights of society comes first,” Bloomberg continued.

“If you wanna know if somebody is a good salesman, give him the job of going to the Midwest and picking a town and selling to that town the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter,” Bloomberg said. “If you can sell that, you can sell anything. They just look at you and they say, ‘What on Earth are you talking about?’”

A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson pointed out in a statement Thursday that the former mayor signed a New York City gender identity nondiscrimination bill in 2002.

“Mike is running to defeat Donald Trump and reverse the many policies he has implemented that attack the rights of the transgender community," the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Clymer, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ advocacy group, called Bloomberg’s comments “deeply disgusting and disqualifying” and demanded an apology.

“Trans people were living openly in the Midwest long before Bloomberg woke up one morning and decided to start buying elections,” Clymer tweeted Thursday, referring to the billionaire businessman's heavy spending on his presidential campaign.

Gillian Branstetter, a transgender advocate, tweeted that Bloomberg’s remarks showed “an elitist tendency.”

“This is not only demeaning to trans people; it's an entitled dismissal of the intelligence of anyone outside the Acela corridor,” she wrote, referring to the Amtrak route between New York and Washington.

Before he made his “salesman” remark, Bloomberg asked people in the crowd if they were aware of the “bathroom issue,” likely referring to a business boycott of North Carolina over a proposed bill called HB2, which would have banned transgender people from bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.

Just two days before Bloomberg delivered his Oxford remarks, North Carolina's Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a supporter of HB2, conceded defeat in the gubernatorial race to Democrat Roy Cooper after vote counting in the close election stretched over weeks.

Sarah McBride, also a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign and a candidate for a seat in the Delaware General Assembly, pointed out the irony that Bloomberg "was talking literally days after Pat McCrory lost.”

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