Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York City, speaks to media at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center Tuesday, December 3, 2019.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who has pumped millions into the state of Mississippi, denigrated the state and its leaders in 2013 after the Legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from banning certain foods and drinks.

Bloomberg, then the New York City mayor, banned city vendors from selling large servings of soda in 2012. In response, several state legislatures across the country prohibited similar acts in their states through similar so-called “anti-Bloomberg bills.”

Mississippi’s Republican Legislature passed one of those bills, eliciting a harsh reaction from Bloomberg.

“It’s the most obese state,” Bloomberg said of Mississippi at a 2013 event in Brooklyn, as reported by Politico. “It’s got a life expectancy five or six years worse than New York City. It’s got a murder rate higher, a suicide rate higher, and they’re worried about things that we’re doing. Where would you rather live — there or here? I mean, think about that.”

Bloomberg, who was New York mayor for 10 years, has hired 24 full-time campaign staffers in Mississippi alone — the largest Mississippi campaign staff investment of any presidential candidate in history.

Bloomberg’s campaign hired its Mississippi team ahead of the March 10 Democratic primary, when 41 Democratic delegate votes are up for grabs. Bloomberg, a billionaire and one of the world’s wealthiest people, is dropping big cash in other later-primary states in hopes of picking up delegates.

“Mike believes Mississippi is a perfectly nice place to live, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the challenges facing our state,” Sam Hall, Bloomberg’s communications director in Mississippi, said when asked to respond to Bloomberg’s 2013 statement. “He is committed to working with Mississippi leaders to solve these challenges and ensure that our nation reaches its true, God-given potential.”

Hall continued: “Mike believes all Americans — from New York City to Mississippi and everywhere in between — deserve access to quality affordable health care and a government that addresses the real challenges facing their state.”

As Bloomberg courts voters in Mississippi, the state with the highest percentage of African American voters, he’s faced broad national criticism for his defense of stop-and-frisk, the controversial policing tactic that disproportionately affected people of color and was later ruled unconstitutional.

Since he launched his campaign in November 2019, Bloomberg has repeatedly apologized for his support of stop-and-frisk, though that apology came after he spent years insisting the policy was effective and glossing over important context about the policy’s eradication.

Bloomberg has also faced criticism in recent days after fresh allegations of sexual harassment. In the past week, several former employees of Bloomberg’s raised allegations of sexism and sexual harassment. Citing previously unreleased court documents and interviews with witnesses, The Washington Post last week detailed vulgar and misogynistic comments Bloomberg allegedly made toward women.

In his first presidential debate appearance on Wednesday night, Bloomberg was blasted by every Democratic opponent for various positions, including the number of his non-disclosure agreements.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.