“I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president.” Can we finally, finally, without any second thoughts, take Michael Bloomberg at his word? The man has been trying to get the press to understand for a long time that he is not running for president, but journalists and editors (based mostly here in New York, I might add) have refused to take the hint. They’ve acted instead like hopelessly romantic Cyranos, declaring their love in long, glowing articles recited underneath the balcony at Gracie Mansion. I can only hope that now, after the imprimatur of a New York Times op-ed by the mayor titled, “I’m Not Running for President ,” that we can move on.
This might also be a moment for the media to stop and reflect. A very conservative LexisNexis search for the words “Bloomberg” and “running for president” in The New York Times produced sixty-six hits. When I put in just the words “Bloomberg” and “president” and “candidate,” I got over two thousand. This is not the most scientific finding, obviously, but I don’t need a database to tell me what has been glaringly obvious for at least the past year, if not two: Bloomberg-for-president hype has been rampant. And it has been based on the flimsiest of sources, mostly just the mayor’s right-hand man, Kevin Sheekey whispering into the ears of reporters. This has produced a cascade of daily articles and long, feature pieces. Much ado about nothing.
A few weeks ago, I wrote, “How stupid are journalists going to feel when it turns out Bloomberg isn’t bluffing, but actually means it when he says he’s not a candidate?” I’m not gloating. I would have been happy to eat my words if Bloomberg had announced. But it was obvious even then that this was all getting a bit silly. Journalists (and their overzealous editors) let their desires—the news bonanza that would come with a New York mayor running for president—make them deaf to the reality that Bloomberg himself kept restating. He had no national profile and nothing to recommend him besides being (arguably) a good mayor and tons of cash. A story, especially one that ran this long, should have been built on more than that.Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.