02:43 - Source: NBC News
Bloomberg's defense of NDAs draw groans from debate audience
Washington CNN  — 

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would not release women who signed nondisclosure agreements when pressed Wednesday by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying women who have made allegations of sexist and misogynistic behavior against him maybe “didn’t like a joke I told.”

Bloomberg brushed off a question at the Democratic presidential debate about claims he has faced in the past and pointed to his record of hiring and promoting women within his company and at City Hall when he was mayor.

Warren then turned to Bloomberg and asked if the billionaire would release the women who have made accusations from the nondisclosure agreements they signed, “so we can hear their side of the story?”

“We have a very few nondisclosure agreements,” Bloomberg said.  

“How many is that?” Warren pressed.

“Let me finish,” Bloomberg said.

“None of them accuse me of doing anything other than, maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said, which was met by groans from the audience in the debate hall.

“There’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet,” Bloomberg continued. “And that’s up to them. They signed those agreements and we’ll live with it.”

Warren shot back, “I’m sorry, no, the question is, are the women bound by being muzzled by you? And you could release them from that immediately.”

Bloomberg faces claims from the 1990s that prior to a male colleague’s wedding, Bloomberg told a group of female employees to “line up to give him a blow job as a wedding present”; that he would regularly direct comments like “look at that nice piece of ass” at women in the office; and that upon learning that a female employee was expecting a baby, he responded: “Kill it!”

Bloomberg, through his representatives, denied making the “kill it” comment and other comments laid out in at least two lawsuits, but acknowledged he has made comments that do not align with his values.

“I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed,” Bloomberg said on Wednesday night, adding that his company has fully investigated any complaints. He cited women in leadership positions at his company, at his foundation and in city government when he was mayor of New York City.

Warren responded, “I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women.’” The senator’s response prompted Bloomberg to roll his eyes.

“That just doesn’t cut it,” Warren continued. “The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there.”

CNN’s MJ Lee and Maeve Reston contributed to this report.