Presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg had a private call with transgender leaders on Thursday and apologized for his widely criticized remarks in which he referred to trans people as “it” and “men in dresses,” a spokesperson for his campaign told NewNowNext.
After weeks of silence in response to two recently unearthed videos—one from 2016 and one from last year—in which Bloomberg uses dehumanizing language to talk about trans people, the former New York City mayor says he understands his words were hurtful.
“It was a poor attempt to describe how some who oppose transgender equality think about this issue—and those words do not reflect my unwavering support for equality for transgender Americans,” Bloomberg said in an exclusive statement to NewNowNext. “I want to offer my sincerest apologies to the members of the transgender community.”
Bloomberg went on to state that the recent murder of transgender woman Neulisa Luciano Ruiz in Puerto Rico highlighted the need for a president who would set the moral compass to ensure safety and respect for trans people. He noted that he signed a bill in 2002 affirming nondiscrimination protections for trans and gender nonconforming New Yorkers.
“As mayor, I signed a sweeping transgender civil rights bill and, as president, will promote policies that advance equality for transgender Americans who have been attacked by the Trump administration over the past three years,” he said.
The campaign declined to specify which transgender leaders Bloomberg met with this week.
Bloomberg has faced a rash of criticism from LGBTQ advocates after Buzzfeed News reported that he called transgender people “it” in a video last year. Another video from 2016 shows him referring to transgender women as “men in dresses” and stating that Midwesterners would have a hard time accepting trans rights.
“If you want to know is somebody a good salesman, give them the job of going to the Midwest, and picking a town, and selling to that town the concept that some man wearing a dress should be in the locker room with their daughter,” he said.
During the Nevada Democratic debate, Bloomberg’s contender Elizabeth Warren blasted him for allegedly calling a woman a “horsey-faced lesbian.” He faced further criticism after Team Bloomberg, one of his campaign Twitter accounts, sent out a satirical homophobic tweet suggesting his other contender Bernie Sanders wanted to see Vladimir Putin shirtless. That tweet has since been deleted.
The Human Rights Campaign condemned Bloomberg’s remarks earlier this month and called on him to apologize. On Thursday, HRC president Alphonso David praised Bloomberg for doing so.
“He took the time to engage members of the transgender community, and it is heartening that he has realized his comments were unacceptable,” David said in a statement to NewNowNext. “It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all members of our community, particularly the most marginalized members, are treated with dignity and respect.”