Mike Bloomberg heads into Minglewood Hall in Midtown for a rally in support of his bid to win Tennessee's Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday (March 3). (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Michael Bloomberg said he “gets” the African-American community, vowing to pursue an agenda that highlights his commitment to “right the wrongs of racial inequalities,” if elected President of the United States.

In Memphis last Friday for a rally at Minglewood Hall in Midtown, the billionaire businessmen and philanthropist spoke with The New Tri-State Defender during a one-on-one interview as he sought to amp up support ahead of Tennessee’s Presidential Primary on Tuesday, March 3.

African Americans, he said, should consider voting for him because he doesn’t make empty promises and has a targeted agenda to hold him accountable.

“The African American Community has to stop being pandered to, with everyone promising them something and not doing anything,” said Bloomberg. “They should say ‘enough is enough.’ We’ve listened to all of this stuff.”

Pouring millions of dollars into his self-funded campaign, Bloomberg has honed in on African Americans, a key group of the Democratic electorate, since announcing his candidacy in November. He’s spent $3.5 million dollars on advertisements in black media outlets.

His response to the targeted advertising campaign: “Where are all the other presidential candidates and their ads in the black press?”

Saturday’s Mike for Black America rally in West Memphis featured West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon (Podium) and (r-l) Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; D’James Rogers, local Mike Bloomberg 2020 organizer; Brownsville, Tn. Mayor Bill Rawls; former Flint, Mich. Mayor Karen Williams Weaver, and Durwin Lairy, deputy state director for Arkansas. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Last month in Houston, Bloomberg launched “Mike for Black America,” an effort to engage black voters across the country, he said, by targeting issues specifically affecting African Americans and that exist due to racial inequalities. West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon hosted such an event for Bloomberg over the weekend.

Memphis – and other cities with crippling-high poverty rates amongst African Americans – would benefit from his Greenwood Initiative, Bloomberg. Launched in January, the multi-billion-dollar plan is aimed at promoting black economic empowerment. It involves creating one-million more African-American homeowners, investing $70 billion in 100 disadvantaged neighborhoods across the country and creating 100,000 more black business owners.

The initiative takes its name from the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla. Known as Black Wall Street in the early 20th century, it was the most prominent district of black-owned businesses in the United States. In 1921, it was destroyed in race attacks known as the Black Wall Street Massacre.

“African-American households have one-tenth the net worth of white households. If that doesn’t say to African-American voters that there is something wrong and we need somebody who knows how to create jobs and make things more equal, then I don’t know what does,” he said. “And I have done that in New York, if you look at the record.”

The former New York City mayor touted his 12-year experience running the largest city in the U.S., crediting his administration with “the creation of 500,000 jobs” and “cutting the crime rate in half.”

A spokesperson for Bloomberg cited the New York State Department of Labor for the number of jobs added within the first year that Bloomberg took office in December 2002 to his last month in December 2013.

PolitiFact, a fact-checking website for elected officials, notes that while Bloomberg’s claim of crime reduction is true, the crime rate was decreasing before he took office and has continued to decline since he left.

Bloomberg’s baggage from his time as mayor includes an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy conducted in largely minority neighborhoods with high crime rates.

“Yes, stop-and-frisk did get out of control, and I apologized for it,” he told The New Tri-State Defender. “And I cut it back by 95 percent.”

But, said Bloomberg, “we did cut the murder rate in half during that time and I’ve been working very hard to take on the NRA (National Rifle Association).”

Asked if he thinks stop-and-frisk should be implemented in Memphis to combat the city’s rising homicide rate, Bloomberg said, “It’s not my job to tell the police here how to do it.

“I can tell you that all of the big cities do it and New York still continues to use it at a lower level. In many big cities, it is a standard technique that is used. But I’m not an expert on what goes on here.”

Pointing to recent legislation introduced by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to allow Tennessee residents to carry guns without a permit, Bloomberg said, “The problem isn’t the homicide rate. It’s the governor. …

“He wants to take away all restrictions of carrying guns on the street.  Given there are 40,000 people each year who either commit suicide or get shot, then it’s a little bit crazy. The governor should be going in the other direction.”

Pivoting to what it would take to unseat the incumbent president – and saying he is the only Democratic Party hopeful who can beat President Trump – Bloomberg said, “The key is choosing a candidate who can pull Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans.”

A Bloomberg supporter at Minglewood Hall registers her voting intentions for Tennessee’s Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday (March 3). (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

The New Tri-State Defender specifically asked him about a key demographic of voters – African-American women. Reports show that in 2016 African-American women outperformed almost all voters. And the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 55 percent of eligible African-American women voters cast ballots in November 2018. That is a full six percentage points above the national turnout.

Bloomberg said he’s focused on issues that matter most to African-American women voters, noting improvements of school systems, job creation, affordable housing and after-school programs.

“And again, you gotta get guns out of the hands of people,” he said. “You just can’t just sell guns to minors or people who have psychiatric problems.”

Among Bloomberg’s staunchest supporters is State Rep. London Lamar (D-91), who emphasizes that he “has been fighting to improve the health of Americans for decades.”

“There is a health care crisis in this country, and especially in states like Tennessee,” she said. “For black women especially, who disproportionately lack access to affordable, quality, health care the risk of dying from pregnancy related causes is three to four times higher than that of black women.”

If elected, Bloomberg said he would appoint a cabinet that shares his commitment to confronting the issues affecting Black Americans and who have “experienced and lived the issues in their own lives.”

Asked if he would consider an African-American running mate, specifically an African-American woman, Bloomberg said he would, “consider everybody.”