If anyone at Bloomberg News wants the company’s eponymous founder to run for president in 2020, they’re keeping it to themselves.
For some staff at the financial news company bearing his name, it wouldn’t be a presidential election cycle if former New York City mayor and current majority stakeholder in Bloomberg LP Michael Bloomberg didn’t muse about running for higher office.
But now, many staffers realize he’s seriously considering it—and they’re not exactly enthused.
The Daily Beast reached out to more than 60 Bloomberg employees—primarily in editorial roles—via email, telephone, and social media. Among the dozens of employees who responded, two rival trains of thought emerged: one was a hesitancy to speak—even anonymously—about his candidacy; the other was outright opposition to the prospect.
And, perhaps more telling, of the dozens of respondents to The Daily Beast’s query, only one non-editorial staffer said they were enthusiastic about a potential bid.
“I think Bloomberg should absolutely run,” the employee said. “He is a great leader here, why wouldn’t he be a great leader of the country? Plus it would boost our popularity, so it’s a win-win.”
The dozen employees who opposed his candidacy largely did not offer opinions on his primary policy objectives, like curbing climate change and ending gun violence. They said the primary reason they opposed his candidacy was because a Bloomberg bid would complicate the outlet’s coverage of him and politics in general, or possibly create internal upheaval that could jeopardize editorial jobs.
“There are plenty of great candidates whose running won’t impact my job, so I’d rather he sit it out,” one Bloomberg News staffer said.
“I don’t want Bloomberg to run, mainly because it would make my job more complicated,” another editorial staffer said. “Our readers think of us as unbiased, but it makes me worry that positive impression will degrade over time.”
“I think he'd be a good president, he’s probably the most successful technocrat in U.S. history. He's a good manager, and he's not a terrible politician,” a separate staffer told The Daily Beast. However, when directly asked if they think he should run, the staffer added: “No, and I don’t know why anyone here would say yes.”
Just over a month after the midterm elections, in which Bloomberg played a public role as a Democratic donor, his public flirtations with 2020 have already caused some discomfort at the company he currently oversees.
Earlier this month, the ex-mayor visited Iowa and said in a radio interview that if he ran for president, he would consider a number of options for his media company: sell it, put it in a blind trust, or eliminate the organization’s political coverage altogether. He also emphasized that he didn’t want his employees to be “independent” about his bid, and he didn’t want them writing negative stories about him.
“I think at my age, if selling it is possible, I would do that,” Bloomberg said, adding: “At some point, you’re going to die anyway, so you want to do it before then.”
While the majority of respondents who opposed his candidacy said they were mainly worried a Bloomberg bid would make their jobs harder, others felt some of his more controversial public comments would hurt him on key issues.
Multiple staffers said they were irked by his recent remarks casting doubt on some #MeToo-era stories of workplace sexual misconduct. Bloomberg told The New York Times earlier this year that some allegations against anchor Charlie Rose, whose show aired on Bloomberg until last year, were “disgraceful” and potentially untrue.
Those comments did not sit well with many staff. One female employee described them as “vommy,” while another said the comments were disqualifying for a presidential candidate.
Many staffers told The Daily Beast they’d rather not share their personal opinions about the possibilities of a Bloomberg bid. Still, even among that contingency, several suggested their hesitancy was based on the tenuousness of his potential bid.
One staffer said most employees were in “wait and see” mode. Another said the mood among editorial employees was “trepidatious,” but that many staffers are currently not worried because “it’s all very speculative.”
Many, however, agreed with the sentiments expressed by several staffers in a BuzzFeed News piece casting employees as generally “worried” about a Bloomberg run.
Still, among those who are indifferent to a bid, there emerged a potential silver lining. Some employees have complained that the news outlet hasn’t been as strong since he returned in 2014 after leaving the mayor’s office. A Bloomberg presidential run would mean he is forced to back off the day-to-day operations of the news outlet.
“I didn’t like some of the changes he made when he came back, so maybe Bloomberg leaving could be a net positive,” one staffer said.
Beyond Bloomberg’s public comments on the matter, the company’s leadership has been mum about whether there are plans in place to deal with a potential campaign. According to multiple employees, his comments to the Iowa radio station have not yet been addressed internally.
Sources relayed that at recent bureau meetings in New York and Washington D.C., some Bloomberg News staff asked how his potential candidacy would affect the company. Company brass said that they do not yet know what he plans to do.
Either way, the organization has, in the past, avoided in-depth coverage of its billionaire founder.
Bloomberg News has a longstanding and occasionally inconsistent policy of not covering its founder, supposedly to help avoid conflicts of interest. In 2016, Bloomberg Politics' Washington news director Kathy Kiely resigned, telling the Huffington Post that she believed that, under his reign, her team “could not cover the Bloomberg trial balloon in the aggressive way I thought it deserved.”
The site regularly runs editorials under its namesake founder’s byline on various political topics, and occasionally the news division has covered his political efforts. But recent articles about his candidacy on the news site have been brief, and when he donated $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University earlier this year, Bloomberg News simply ran an Associated Press wire story on its site.
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Sunday, Kiely, now a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, said Bloomberg’s comment that he would expect only favorable Bloomberg News coverage of his candidacy was outwardly disrespectful to his employees.
If the ex-mayor does run, Kiely said, he needs to allow his reporters to cover the race fairly, recalling how during his brief flirtation with an independent presidential bid in 2016 there were “all kinds of restrictions” placed on the outlet’s political team.
“Bloomberg News service has some terrific reporters—I know cause I worked there,” she said. “To handcuff them and say things like ‘I don’t want them to be independent,’ that's really damaging to their reputation.”
“It’s a terrible thing to say about your news staff, it's a terrible thing for morale and for their reputation,” she added.
“It shows a lack or respect for the people who are working for you.”
—Pilar Melendez contributed reporting.