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Knives out for Bloomberg from the start of Nevada debate

Bloomberg center of attack at Democratic debate
Bloomberg center of attack at Democratic deba... 04:53

Democrats wasted no time during Wednesday's debate before taking shots at Michael Bloomberg, the newest Democratic presidential candidate on the debate stage, taking aim within the event's opening minutes at his derogatory comments about women and his billionaire status.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was first to slam Bloomberg, saying that Democrats are taking a "huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another."

"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."

Democrats, Warren continued, will not defeat President Trump in November "if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like red-lining and stop-and-frisk."

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar continued with the attack on Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, saying that Democrats need a candidate who is different from Mr. Trump.

"I  don't think you look at Donald Trump and say we need someone richer in the White House," she said.

Election 2020 Debate
Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, left, and Senator Elizabeth Warren talk before a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, February 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. AP

Bloomberg is worth more than $64 billion, according to Forbes, towering over Mr. Trump's $3.1 billion net worth.

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, sought to tie Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders together, saying the Democratic Party needs to nominate a candidate "who is actually a Democrat."

Bloomberg previously was a Republican before switching his voter registration to Democrat before his mayoral run, while Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist.

The former New York City mayor attempted to differentiate himself from Mr. Trump, saying that as a New Yorker. He knows how to take on an "arrogant con man" like the president.

The Democratic candidates continued to hound Bloomberg for not releasing women from nondisclosure agreements signed regarding allegations of workplace misconduct.

"I hope you heard what his defense was: 'I've been nice to some women,'" Warren said. "That just doesn't cut it. The mayor has to stand on his record."

The Massachusetts senator pressed Bloomberg on how many women signed the confidentiality agreements and said a lack of transparency about his conduct in the workplace damages his electability, particularly if there is a "drip drip drip" of damaging stories about him that could come to light in the run-up to the general election.

Joe Biden echoed Warren, saying Bloomberg's unwillingness to release women from nondisclosure agreements is an issue of transparency.

Bloomberg refused to agree to let women speak freely about their experiences working for his company and instead said some of his employees perhaps "didn't like the joke I told."

"I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the Me Too movement has exposed," Bloomberg said. 

Bloomberg also cited the women who worked with him in New York's City Hall and the high marks his company, Bloomberg LP, receives from employees. 

"We're not going to end these agreements because they were made consensually," he said.

Six Democratic candidates took to the debate stage Wednesday at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas, which marked Bloomberg's first appearance in a primary debate.

Because Bloomberg is self-funding his presidential campaign, he has not met the required donor thresholds to qualify. But the Democratic National Committee changed the requirements ahead of the Nevada debate, specifying candidates had to either meet a polling or delegate threshold.

Bloomberg officially cleared the polling threshold Tuesday.

The former New York City mayor has also come under fire for pouring millions of his own money into his campaign, leading to charges he effectively bought his spot in the presidential race and on the debate stage. His past comments about women and his support of policies such as stop-and-frisk and red-lining have also made him a target of his Democratic competitors.

Wednesday's debate is the last before Saturday's Nevada caucuses.

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