Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday called for taking on the National Rifle Association when pressed on his prior support for stop-and-frisk, continuing a pattern of liberals invoking gun control when in a tight spot.
"Looking back, I made a mistake. I'm sorry," Bloomberg told CBS. "I apologize. Let's go fight the NRA and find other ways to stop the murders and incarceration. Those are things that I'm committed to do, and the more I do that, the better off everybody is."
Bloomberg told CBS the sign of an "intelligent, competent person" was owning up to an error. Interviewer Gayle King said his critics found the timing suspicious, since he apologized as he entered the Democratic primary, where black voters' support is critical.
"Nobody asked me about it until I started running for president, so come on," Bloomberg said.
That is not strictly true. Bloomberg defended the policy from criticism at the United States Naval Academy's 2019 Leadership Conference in January.
Bloomberg's comments were reminiscent of other liberal figures who have invoked the NRA as a political foe when they needed to assuage progressives.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam (D.) sought new gun-control legislation in a special session he called following his blackface scandal in February. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau similarly campaigned on confiscating firearms after old photos of him in blackface emerged in September.
In his first public statement following reports of his sexual misconduct, movie mogul and Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein said he would be giving the NRA his "full attention."
Bloomberg's pivot to gun control comes as the freshly minted 2020 contender faces tough questions about his record as New York's mayor, particularly about police tactics that critics decried as racially discriminatory.
As mayor, Bloomberg championed stop-and-frisk, which allowed police officers to temporarily detain and search people they suspected of criminal wrongdoing. Black and Hispanic men were disproportionately targeted, drawing the ire of civil rights groups and a federal ruling that stop-and-frisk violated the Constitution.
Bloomberg stood by the policy while mayor and after he left office. In 2012, he told a black congregation in Brooklyn he would not "walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives." In January, Bloomberg said stop-and-frisk helped cut the city's murder rate in half.
But before officially entering the 2020 race last month, Bloomberg reversed course and said his support for stop-and-frisk was a mistake.