NEW YORK -- CEO Michael Bloomberg apologized Tuesday for recently nicknaming Bloomberg Politics managing editors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann after two notorious figures from the Watergate scandal.
“I apologized to them yesterday. I apologize to them today," Bloomberg said at a New York staff meeting attended by politics staffers and high-ranking executives, according to a source present. "I shouldn't have done it."
Bloomberg's apology came five days after he playfully dubbed the journalists “Haldeman and Ehrlichman,” a reference to disgraced Nixon officials H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Though Bloomberg may have intended to be glib, the nickname was understandably interpreted negatively inside the Washington bureau, where it was privately uttered, and as word filtered outside the newsroom walls.
In a Tuesday afternoon memo to staff, Bloomberg explained that his comment was intended to be "light-hearted."
"My jocular comparison of them to the Nixon-era political operatives who had a reputation for being tough, direct and edgy, was thought disparaging by some," Bloomberg wrote in the memo, obtained by The Huffington Post. "It was not meant that way; and in retrospect, perhaps I should have expected someone to take it out of the light-hearted spirit in which it was meant. And I could have been more artful in how I phrased it. As I said in the meeting, I am sorry that I said something that was perceived as disparaging. Now let’s get back to covering this election with one of the best teams in the business."
The Washington Post's Erik Wemple first reported on Bloomberg's apology.
In the memo, Bloomberg described Halperin and Heilemann as "talented, 'take no prisoners,' hard-hitting, honest journalists who call things as they see them" and said he was a "devotee" of their daily TV show, "With All Due Respect." (Bloomberg similarly expressed his devotion to the show last fall following a report he'd soured on it). And he praised the reporters, editors and producers involved in election coverage -- from "With All Due Respect," to the Bloomberg Politics site, to its subscription-based terminal -- for "doing a tremendous job covering the hugely important story of the presidential election."
A Bloomberg spokeswoman declined to comment.
Bloomberg also addressed his speculation last week that Halperin and Heilemann, authors of buzzy 2008 and 2012 election books Game Change and Double Down, would likely depart after the election to write another post-election tome.
Inside Bloomberg, staffers have assumed Halperin and Heilemann might write another post-election book, though the authors currently have no publishing deal. But speculation coming from Bloomberg himself raised concerns among staff over what political coverage and TV programming will look like after the election -- and whether they'd have jobs after November.
"In a private, internal, off-the-record discussion on the future of political news coverage after the current horse race is over, some apparently took exception to my speculation as to what will have popular appeal," he wrote. "Only the future will tell that story."
He said Bloomberg will assess its political coverage and TV programming after the 2016 election is over, which is common for news organizations to do.
"What the future holds for WADR, Bloomberg Politics, and them, we will determine after the election season," Bloomberg said. "I pointed out that they will have myriad opportunities to tell the story they cover for us across our platforms -- and that does not preclude continuing WADR as is on Bloomberg TV."