Amid ongoing controversy involving Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg and his attitude toward New York City’s stop-and-frisk policies, blogger and reporter Zaid Jilani tweeted a screenshot from Reddit’s r/PresidentBloomberg — in which an apparent supporter of Bloomberg’s campaign asked others to “brainstorm” ways to make Bloomberg’s positions “sound less racist”:
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) February 13, 2020
Verifying the existence of the post was reasonably straightforward, and Jilani linked to the thread. The post, which was submitted on February 11 2020 and locked sometime thereafter, featured the same title (“Can we brainstorm ways to make this sound less racist?”) and a video clip :
An audio portion of the clip was the subject of a previous TruthOrFiction.com fact check about some of Bloomberg’s remarks. On the page, which we rated True, Bloomberg was quoted as saying in February 2015:
Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25. That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city in America. And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed.
So you want to spend the money on a lot of cops in the streets. Put those cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods. So one of the unintended consequences is people say, “Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.” Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them… And then they start, “Oh I don’t want to get caught.” So they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.
The post itself was real in that it existed, and the underlying comments were widely covered and real. But in a follow-up tweet, Jilani noted that he was “90 percent sure” the original poster was insincere:
90% sure this is a troll post (and no it wasn't me who made it). Still very humorous.
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) February 13, 2020
As for the original poster to r/PresidentBloomberg, u/Throw_away_campaign, their username indicated their use of a “throwaway account.” In Reddit parlance, users are known to create single-use or alternate accounts not associated with their “main” handle, in order to anonymously participate in temporary discussions or events:
Use of “throwaway accounts” is common in personal, legal, and political subreddits, and they are often used to protect users’ sensitive activity from spilling over to their all-purpose accounts. A handle like u/Throw_away_campaign suggested the user was a longer-term Reddit participant, and using a separate account for political discussion during the 2020 Primary. In some subreddits, use of throwaway accounts is mandated due to the nature of their discussions.
A visit to u/Throw_away_campaign‘s profile supported Jilani’s second tweet on the matter of the original post. Their first interaction on Reddit was on January 19 2020, involving a separate post shared to r/PresidentBloomberg.
That user participated in other subreddits such as r/news and r/funny, but was also a frequent poster to r/PresidentBloomberg during their short tenure on Reddit. In an early February 2020 post, a comment they added to a post on that sub appeared to be sincere and in favor of Bloomberg:
The reason Bloomberg is in this race is because everyone in the democratic party understands exactly how Bernie pays for his ideas, and it will cost people like Bloomberg billions. There was never any chance either party would let Bernie win the general election.
Medicare For All may be cheaper than our current system, but there’s no way for private health insurance to ever compete against something that has zero interest in making any profits at all. So the billionaires invested in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry will lose billions in potential profits even before their taxes are raised.
Same story for the coal industry. Same story on Wall Street. Same story for any oil company invested in fracking. Bernie is out there bragging that he’s their worst nightmare, but what he fails to realize is just how hard these industries will fight him if they actually get worried he’ll win.
Some of these companies posted a billion dollars in profit in a single quarter. When faced with the complete destruction of their profit model, they’ll fight tooth and nail throwing BILLIONS to re-elect Trump. You can’t compete with that kind of money.
That’s why Bloomberg is the BEST choice. Not only does he have the funds it takes to win, but neither side is going to fight very hard against him.
Another comment made by that user on or around the day the original post was submitted was more in line with the “less racist” query, urging fellow Bloomberg supporters to “lean in” to criticism about the comments:
Could you edit out the word “arrested” on those stats?
So more like this:
Rape: only 10% of rapists were white.
Robbery: only 4% of robbers were white.
Felony assault: only 8% of people doing assaults were white.
Grand larceny: only 12% of thieves were white.
Other felony sex crimes: Only 13% of sex criminals were white.
We don’t want people looking up how these stats were determined because it circles back around to all the cops being in minority neighborhoods.
If we’re going to lean into this, we should lean into it fully. It worked for Trump. But we should be all-in towards either blaming those arrested for warrants the police focus on minorities, or we should back off and frame it as a bad policy that was inherited from someone else and lessons were learned. But no half measures. It leaves us open to criticism.
In yet another, the commenter said:
Bloomberg has what it takes to win. It’s a pay-to-win system and he can out-pay everyone. Can and will. Already is. He’s skyrocketing in the polls like a rocket ship. After super-tuesday, this sub will be flooded with tends of thousands of people. We’ve already doubled from 400 members to over 800 in just a few weeks. At the end of the day, we live in a global oligarchy. A pay-to-win system. No amount of volunteering or donating by little people can stop him. No one but Bloomberg can win, and deep down you know it.
That said, such a short range of activity made it not entirely implausible the user “seeded” the account with seemingly earnest pro-Bloomberg commentary, only to later add questionably honest content with the intentional appearance of favoring a candidate while tacitly attacking them.
Bloomberg’s comments were real, and the highlighted post to Reddit’s r/PresidentBloomberg was real inasmuch as it existed. However, the Reddit account behind it was extremely new and sparsely used, less than a month old when the thread surfaced on Reddit. An authentic question from a Bloomberg supporter was a possible explanation, but given all known factors, ratfucking was another very reasonable possibility — the account and its seemingly pro-Bloomberg commentary could very well have been the work of another candidate’s supporters attempting to paint Bloomberg in a bad light.