Though Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has been playing up his relationship with Barack Obama in his recent campaign ads, the billionaire once blamed the former president for letting racial division thrive.
During a November 2016 speaking event at Oxford University in England, the former New York City mayor suggested that Obama had failed to address issues of racial segregation:
I would argue that today we are more segregated, in America certainly, than we were, in terms of race, than we were a dozen years ago, and yet we’re just finishing up eight years with our first Black president. “Why are we more separated than we were before?” is the question you’ve got to ask yourself. Why during the Obama administration didn’t we pull together? Ask the president. That’s his job really to pull people together.
You can listen to the remarks around minute 54 in the video below.
Those critical comments from 2016 throw a bit of a wrench in the image of his and Obama’s relationship that Bloomberg’s campaign has tried to push. A Bloomberg ad that began circulating Feb. 5 centers entirely on past supportive comments Obama has made about the candidate, including one praising him for bringing people together.
“At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions,” Obama is quoted as saying in the ad. The former president has not made any endorsement in the 2020 Democratic primary.
When asked if Bloomberg stands by his 2016 remarks, his spokesperson Julie Wood said, “While Mike has never been shy to critique Washington dysfunction or partisan division, he believes that President Obama showed extraordinary leadership in the White House.”
A spokesperson for Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bloomberg made a late entrance into the presidential race in November and quickly came under fire for his outsize spending on advertising, with many accusing him of trying to buy his way into the Oval Office. Though he hasn’t been competing in the early primary and caucus states, he dropped more than $300 million on ads in January alone.