While browsing through Reddit, I happened to come across a recent article claiming that video had recently come out of 2020 Democratic primary candidate Michael Bloomberg making a rather disparaging comment about transgender issues. Written by Alex Bollinger, the LGBTQNation article entitled “Mike Bloomberg said trans rights are about “some man wearing a dress” using a locker room with girls,” claimed that, despite his campaign promise to promote LGBT equality, a video from 2016 shows him referring to transgender women as men in dresses. The subheading added, “He said that things should be run like in prison: ‘drop your trousers, you go this way, you go that way‘.”
As it was written for an LGBTQ+ based news source, it was not surprising that Bollinger’s seemed quite critical of Bloomberg’s commentary on the transgender community. Through my own fact-checking of his information, I hoped to address two pieces of this issue:
- Is the quote provided by Bollinger a valid and direct quote from Michael Bloomberg himself?
- If so, what was the context in which it was said? That is, did the article take a sentence out of context in order to present an inaccurate narrative?
I began with a DuckDuckGo search of “michael bloomberg site:snopes.com site:politifact.com site:factcheck.org” in order to see if he has any history with anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. When this yielded not relevant results, I narrowed the search to “michael bloomberg transgender site:snopes.com site:politifact.com site:factcheck.org,” which did not lead anywhere either.
I then moved to Bloomberg’s Wikipedia page and navigated to the Social Issues section. While there was no information on his stance regarding transgender issues specifically, and instead only stated his support of same-sex marriage.
Because none of these steps truly reached the root of the issue at hand, I navigated back to the original article to look at the source provided by Bollinger: the tweet containing video evidence of Bloomberg’s quote.
In regards to what was quoted within Bollinger’s article, Bloomberg can be heard saying:
“We, the intelligentsia, the people who could make it into this room…we believe a lot of things in terms of equality and protecting individual rights that make no sense to the vast bulk of people…If you want to know if somebody is 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 a locker room with their daughter.
…in our prison system in New York City we have to have the policy when you walk in, you know, drop your trousers, you go this way, you go that way. That’s it. You can’t sit there, you can’t mix things in a jail, that’s a practical case of when you have to make a decision.
This confirms that the quotes being provided in both the headline and the body of the article were correct. However, the article’s subheading was misleading in stating that Bloomberg said that “things should be run like the prisons.” While he referenced the way New York prisons operated in regards to gender issues, he did not say that locker rooms should operate in the same fashion.
It can be argued that the quote was somewhat taken out of context for the headline as well, as Bloomberg was describing — albeit in an offensive manner — how he and his colleagues understand the push for equality even though other people may not. He even adds, “…the social issues that we’re very proud of achieving aren’t believed by the vast bulk of the people.”
Within the same Twitter thread containing the video in question were subsequent videos containing comments made by Bloomberg in 2016. One showed him touch on why same-sex marriage is more widely understood, but other than that none of the other videos were closely related to his opinions on transgender issues.
I then moved to the rest of the sources cited by Bollinger for his own article. One of these sources linked to an article from NewNowNext.com which covered the same video from the same Twitter thread. This article, written by Kate Sosin, clarified the full context of the video, explaining that the remark was a response to “Brexit and the difficulties of getting people to agree on controversial issues” (Sosin).
The other two sources cited within the LGBTQNation article led to two other articles from the same website (with one even being written by the same author), so I decided to look outside of the article for another source of confirmation. I searched Google to see if I could find any other articles covering this video. When Googling “Michael Bloomberg transgender,” I came across an article from Business Insider written by Connor Perrett entitled “Mike Bloomberg called trans women a ‘man wearing a dress’ and implied equality ‘makes no sense’ to Midwesterners.”
This article relayed much of the same information as the article from LGBTQNation while expanding upon what Bloomberg has stated his plans are in regards to LGBTQ+ equality in his 2020 presidential campaign.
Bollinger’s article was accurate in its claim that a 2016 video showed Michael Bloomberg refer to transgender women as “men in dresses.” He also did reference the process of inmates having to show their genitalia as proof of their gender in regards to the New York prison system.
The headline, however, can be construed as being worded in a way that can lead one to believe that the former mayor of New York is against the idea of transgender individuals being able to use the bathrooms and/or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity when he stated in the video that he was understanding of the transgender community. The subheading was also problematic, as it took the quote about the prison system out of context by saying that Bloomberg believes locker rooms should be run the same way when there was no evidence of that within the video.
What my research has led me to conclude is that the information in the body of this article is presented in a mostly accurate fashion, but the headline and sub-headline can be misleading to readers who are not taking the time to read the entirety of the article.