2020 contender Michael Bloomberg during Wednesday night's debate once again refused to release potentially dozens of women, downplaying their accusations of sexual harassment as "maybe they didn't like a joke I told."
On the debate stage in Reno, Nev., Bloomberg was challenged by MSNBC moderator Hallie Jackson, who pointed to derogatory comments multiple women have claimed Bloomberg made to them while they were in his employ at his company, Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg demurred, emphasizing the women he has worked with in both public and private life.
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"I hope you heard what his defense was," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) jumped in. "I've been nice to some women."
"He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the work place," Warren added, before asking Bloomberg, "are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements?"
But Bloomberg once again refused to do so, saying that "they signed the agreements, and that's what they're going to live with."
"We have a very few nondisclosure agreements … none of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told," Bloomberg said. "They signed those agreements and we'll live with it."
Wednesday evening is far from the first time Bloomberg has refused to release former female employees from nondisclosure agreements settling more than a dozen legal complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination at Bloomberg LP.
Bloomberg himself has been accused of making numerous crude sexual comments, including telling one employee to keep her boyfriend happy with "good [oral sex]," saying of women at his company, "I'd like to do that piece of meat" and "I would do you in a second," and announcing that he'd "love nothing more in life than to have Sharon Stone sit on my face." One former employee, Sekiko Sakai, has alleged that upon learning that she was pregnant, an impassive Bloomberg simply told her, "kill it."
Bloomberg for his part has denied making any "mistakes" in his treatment of female employees at his company, telling ABC that "not everybody's happy, but we have an enviable record of treating people the same in terms of compensation and promotions and authority."
Warren for her part has attacked Bloomberg on the issue before.
"I think NDAs are a way for people to hide bad things they've done," Warren said. "And I think that women should be able to speak. They need to be released from NDAs."