'Words matter': Bloomberg says Trump rhetoric can encourage violence

Colin Campbell
Managing Editor

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he hopes President Trump understands that a careless leader’s word choice risks encouraging racism and even violence.

“Words matter,” Bloomberg, a leading advocate of gun control, said in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview airing Sunday.

He was responding to a question from anchor Margaret Brennan, who asked about Democratic presidential candidates’ tying Trump’s rhetoric to last weekend’s mass shooting in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart. The gunman told police he was targeting Mexicans.

“When I was mayor of the largest city in America for 12 years, my words mattered. Papers every day repeated what I said and tried to put it in context, and tried to ascribe motives to everything I said. The public reads, watches, listens to that. And that changes their behavior,” Bloomberg said.

“People look to their leadership for guidance. And to say that it doesn’t have an effect is wrong. So what the president says is very important. And if he supports, or says nice things about, racists, it encourages racism. If he goes and says nice things about white supremacists, he encourages that kind of violence.”

Trump has repeatedly used violent rhetoric when discussing immigration and the border, some of which was echoed by the “manifesto” that investigators believe was written by the suspected El Paso shooter. The president has repeatedly described caravans of Central American migrants seeking asylum as an “invasion.” In an infamous incident, Trump also praised “very fine people, on both sides” of a deadly 2017 clash between white supremacists and protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

“I hope he understands this: He cannot go and shoot off his mouth and say anything,” said Bloomberg.

In the CBS interview, Bloomberg also weighed in on the 2020 presidential race.

The billionaire former mayor first ran New York City as a Republican and then as an independent, but he eyed the 2020 contest himself as a potential Democratic candidate. Reportedly, former Vice President Joe Biden’s candidacy, which occupies the more moderate lane in which Bloomberg intended to run, was one of the factors that kept him on the presidential sidelines.

He praised Biden’s “great experience,” saying the former vice president is a “great American who’s worked very hard for the country.” But he noted that one could say “exactly the same thing” about many of the other candidates.

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