Sparks flew during the ninth Democratic presidential debate, with five veteran debaters and one newcomer facing off on stage on Wednesday.
Wednesday's debate was the first for billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who took considerable heat from the other candidates on stage over his treatment of women and defense of stop and frisk.
The debate, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent, put pressure on Bernie Sanders to defend his position as a leading candidate in the run-up to Nevada's caucuses on Saturday, while moderates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — and now Bloomberg — looked to widen their bases, and Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren sought a boost after failing to meet early expectations.
Highlights from the Las Vegas Democratic debate:
- Who won the Democratic debate in Las Vegas?
- ANALYSIS: Finally, the fight Democrats have been waiting for.
- Debate rivals hammer Bloomberg over 'stop and frisk' policing in NYC.
- Warren comes out swinging and lands several punches.
Fact check: Why did Bloomberg's administration cut back on stop-and-frisk?
Stop-and-frisk “got out of control. And when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop-and-frisks, we cut 95 percent of it out,” Bloomberg claimed Wednesday night.
This is false and misleading. Bloomberg championed the expansion of the policing strategy stop-and-frisk during his administration, it didn't happen without his awareness. The practice was scaled back significantly thanks to a 2013 court order declaring the policy unconstitutional, not Bloomberg’s change of heart.
Bloomberg, in his three terms as New York City mayor, expanded and championed stop-and-frisk — the strategy that gave police the authority to detain people suspected of committing a crime and lead to a practice of stopping mostly black and Hispanic men — right up until days before announcing he was running for president, according to a comprehensive timeline reported by The New York Times.
It's still anybody's debate
When it comes to talking time, it's still anybody's debate.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren kicked off the debate with the most time spent speaking, with a solid margin over the other candidates on stage. Deeper into the night, the hierarchy turned fuzzy as Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mike Bloomberg took more microphone time.
Follow along with our debate-night candidate talking time tracker here.
Fact check: Is Bloomberg against raising the minimum wage?
Sanders, in a veiled shot at Bloomberg, suggested: "Maybe we can talk about a billionaire saying that we should not raise the minimum wage. Or that we should cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. If that's a way to beat Donald Trump, wow! I would be very surprised."
Bloomberg said in a 2015 interview with his own Bloomberg channel that he had “never” been in favor of raising the minimum wage. But now, as a presidential candidate, he backs raising the minimum wage to $15, according to his campaign website.
Buttigieg and Sanders spar over their personal health and health care
Buttigieg hit Sanders after the senator was asked about his health and recent heart attack. Buttigieg said he was "less concerned about the lack of transparency on Senator Sanders' health than I am about the lack of transparency on how he plans to pay for his healthcare plan."
Sanders quickly hit back, calling Buttigieg’s plan "a maintenance continuation of the status quo." Insisting that Democrats needed to be more ambitious and citing a Yale study, Sanders claimed that Medicare for All would save $450 billion a year “because we are eliminating the absurdity of thousands of separate plans” and save tens of thousands of lives.
The Yale study Sanders cited, published by noted medical journal the Lancet, was published on Saturday and concluded the Medicare for All Act would lead to 13 percent in savings in national health-care expenditures and potentially save more than 68,000 lives.
Warren assails Bloomberg over his treatment of women
Bloomberg was asked about criticism of his past comments about women he worked with. He sought to downplay the concerns, saying that women were offended by "maybe" a "joke I told."
"We have very few nondisclosure agreements. None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told."
This answer promoted Warren to immediately go on the attack.
"I heard what his defense was: 'I've been nice to some women,'" she said, pressing him to release the women from their NDAs.
Both Warren and Biden pressed Bloomberg to commit on the debate stage to releasing the women from their nondisclosure agreements.
“All the mayor has to do is say ‘you are released from the nondisclosure agreements,’” said Biden.
Nondisclosure agreements are essentially contracts between individuals or an individual and a company or organization which often bar people from speaking publicly about their experiences and observations during contact with a person, company or organization. They have become standard features of many employment agreements and have been used to shield sometimes illegal and unethical conduct from public view.
However, a nondisclosure agreement cannot legally bind a person from offering information or testimony to a law enforcement agency or regulatory body and often cannot bar participation in civil litigation.
Many people asked to sign NDAs are unaware of those facts, employment lawyers say."
Debate watch Detroit: A room goes quiet when the subject is stop and frisk
DETROIT — As Bloomberg fielded questions about his stop and frisk policy, the members of an African American fraternity watching the debate in a Detroit bar stopped their conversations, put down the beers, and tuned in to listen.
Al Elvin, 44, a corporate lawyer who is the president of the Detroit Alphas organization, the fraternity that hosted the debate party, leaned toward the TV so he could hear better.
"Oh sure. He's apologizing now!" Elvin said.
A native New Yorker, Elvin said he's so alarmed by the way the stop and frisk policy targeted young black and brown men and by some of Bloomberg’s recent comments on the policy that he wouldn't vote for Bloomberg, even if he wins the nomination.
"I've been that boy," Elvin said, referring to men stopped by police in New York City. "I've been that boy and it's not even the law here [in Detroit]. I've been through it. I have three sons and when you talk about stop and frisk, I start to think of them."
ANALYSIS: Finally, the fight Democrats have been waiting for
Democratic voters just wanted to know who could fight President Donald Trump best.
Now, after more than a year, their candidates are brawling with bare knuckles. It took that long because boxing with kid gloves was a low-risk way for the candidates to ease into the race. But that approach let Trump gather his strength.
Pressure has changed the incentives: Bernie Sanders stretching his lead in national polls, Mike Bloomberg dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign, and two contests having decided nothing. So, there is an outright brawl on stage tonight.
Democratic voters may be left wondering why the field was so willing to avoid conflict for so long.
Trump has been the focus of most candidate attacks in previous debates. Not tonight.
Mike Bloomberg has taken President Donald Trump's place as the punching bag on the debate stage at tonight's Democratic debate: 50 minutes into the debate and Trump has been attacked five times, while Bloomberg is at 29.
Get the latest numbers at our candidate attack tracker, and see how many times Trump was attacked in previous debates here:
Bloomberg the unity candidate?
In what has been at times been the most contentious Democratic debate yet, there’s one thing that gets most of the stage on the same page: going after Bloomberg.
Bloomberg battles Biden, Warren on stop-and-frisk
Bloomberg was pressed on his police department’s use of stop-and-frisk while he was mayor.
Bloomberg initially said: "Well, if I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, is how it turned out with stop-and-frisk."
He added that he believed his first responsibility as mayor was to "give people the right to live" and cut down on murders, but he said it got "out of control."
Biden cut in, saying that it’s not about whether Bloomberg apologized, it’s about the "abhorrent" policy.
Bloomberg said that if the stage couldn’t have candidates who were "wrong on criminal justice at some time in their career, there'd be no one up here."
Warren then criticized Bloomberg’s apology, saying he focused on how stop-and-frisk turned out rather than apologizing for "what it was designed to do in the beginning," saying Bloomberg was being willfully ignorant about its impact on black and brown New Yorkers.