Bloomberg addresses anti-Semitic violence, throws shade at Sanders and Trump

"Anti-Semitism is hardly the exclusive domain of one political party," the former New York mayor said, adding, "Presidential leadership matters."
Image: Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks at an event in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speaks at an event in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images file

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By Ali Vitali and Jordan Jackson

MIAMI — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday offered a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump's foreign policy vision and the recent spate of anti-Semitism in a speech centered on his Jewish faith.

Bloomberg joked that while he isn't the only Jewish candidate in the 2020 race, "I am the only one who doesn't want to turn America into a kibbutz" — a thinly veiled reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

"Attacks on Jews, especially the Orthodox, have been taking place with horrifying regularity," Bloomberg said, referring to the recent violence in the New York area during Hanukkah and the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year. "As these attacks occur, our children look to us with faces turned upward for answers, for reassurance, for safety."

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine introduced Bloomberg to the nearly 850 people at the event — more than the campaign expected.

Bloomberg spoke for about 20 minutes to the enthusiastic crowd, which was fired up to see the former mayor. Loud music filled the space before Bloomberg took the stage, creating a buzzing, club-like atmosphere — and the energy built in the room as the speech progressed.

Bloomberg proposed adding bulletproof doors and installing bollards to increase security and safety at synagogues and other places of worship.

"Sadly, I suppose, we must do these things. But while we harden our buildings, we must never harden our hearts," said Bloomberg, who has advocated for and funded gun violence prevention efforts across the country for years.

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While Bloomberg's Jewish faith was the vessel for the speech, he acknowledged that Jews are not the only group to experience a rise in hostility and attacks.

"No single person is entirely to blame," he cautioned, adding: "Anti-Semitism is hardly the exclusive domain of one political party. It can be found on both the right and the left — on town squares and campus quads. But there is one fact that we cannot ignore: Presidential leadership matters."

While Bloomberg didn't directly blame Trump, he lambasted the president's past comments as a sign of "complicity." Trump most notably received widespread criticism over his response to the violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, Trump said, there were "very fine people on both sides."

With this "personal attachment to Israel," Bloomberg also affirmed his commitment to the U.S. ally, quickly pivoting to a rebuke of Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal. That commitment "is also the reason I opposed President Trump's decision to unilaterally walk away from the deal and our partners in Europe. Because doing so was tantamount to giving Iran permission to relaunch its nuclear program."

Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, promised to secure a deal that would constrain Iran and the regime's "aggression and territorial ambitions" — putting an end to its nuclear program and working to ease tensions in the region.

"There are those who will cite moving the embassy to Jerusalem as a reason to support the president," Bloomberg said. "And to that I say very clearly: If I am elected, you will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home. I will defend both — because unlike this president, you and I know they are inextricably linked."