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Bloomberg endorsed by 3 Congressional Black Caucus members after stop-and-frisk apology

Chattanooga, Tennessee — There is one candidate in the 2020 presidential race who wasn't on the ballot in New Hampshire. Michael Bloomberg is running an unconventional campaign, fueled by his own millions. But even before his name appears on a primary ballot, he's already facing controversy over his policies while he was mayor of New York.

Campaigning in Tennessee on Wednesday, Bloomberg expressed regret for comments he made in 2015 about New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

"We put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes that's true," Bloomberg is heard in a recording of a speech given a year after he left office. "Why do we do it? Because that is where all the crime is." 

Bloomberg is also heard saying "you can just take the description" of male minorities age 16 to 25 and "Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops."

Under the stop-and-frisk policy implemented during Bloomberg's three terms in office, hundreds of thousands of people were stopped and searched by police without warrants, with the city's black and Latino population disproportionately targeted and the vast majority released without arrest.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Bloomberg said he "inherited" the policy of stop-and-frisk from his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani.

"I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner," Bloomberg said. "I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities."

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seen Wednesday, February 12, 2020. CBS News

Asked on Wednesday by CBS News why he said those comments years ago, Bloomberg responded: "I don't think those words reflect how I led the most diverse city in the nation and I apologized for the practice and the pain that it caused."

The former mayor said he's not worried his comments could hurt him with voters of color. Wednesday, Bloomberg rolled out endorsements from three members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Georgia Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York and Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"I think we are going to do very well in the African American community," Bloomberg told the crowd in Tennessee.

Bloomberg has been digging into former Vice President Joe Biden's support among African American voters, which has fallen to 27% since December. Biden is now trying to shore up those numbers in South Carolina and beyond.

"You can't win a general election as a Democrat unless you have overwhelming support from black and brown voters. It's just really simple," Biden said Tuesday night.

Bloomberg is in Tennessee because the state holds its primary on Super Tuesday and early voting begins Wednesday. Some voters of color at the community center where Bloomberg held an event told CBS News they were bothered by Bloomberg's past comments, but others said they just wanted someone who can beat President Trump.

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