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Women's advocacy group calls on DNC to block Bloomberg from debate

Women's advocacy group calls on DNC to block Bloomberg from debate

A women’s advocacy group is calling on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to bar presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg from participating in the party’s primary debates due to his decision not to lift nondisclosure agreements with his former employees. 

Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE’s shameful public refusal to release former Bloomberg employees from nondisclosure agreements pertaining to sexual harassment and workplace abuse should be a wake up call to all 2020 presidential candidates,” UltraViolet Action co-founder and president Shaunna Thomas said in a statement Wednesday. 

“Forcing people who have endured harassment or abuse to stay silent for the sake of saving face on the campaign trail is unacceptable.”

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The push comes after Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor self-funding his campaign, qualified for Wednesday night's debate after reaching a polling threshold Tuesday. It is the first debate in which he will appear. 

Representatives for Bloomberg and the DNC were not immediately available for comment. 

UltraViolet said the DNC should require all candidates to release former and current employees from nondisclosure agreements as a prerequisite for getting onto the primary debate stage. 

“If candidates have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear,” Thomas added. “Bloomberg’s refusal to release former employees from nondisclosure agreements is a clear indication of the skeletons in his closet; and we deserve to know who else is hiding behind these insidious legal agreements.”

UltraViolet, in conjunction with the groups Works in Progress and PB Work Solutions, released a set of recommended guidelines last year for all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to use to respond to workplace harassment and sexual violence within their campaigns. Among the guidelines, the organizations recommended campaigns do not require nondisclosure agreements relating to harassment or employee misconduct. 

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Bloomberg has said he will not release women who have sued him from their nondisclosure agreements. 

“You can't just walk away from it,” he told ABC News in January, referring to the secrecy agreements. “They're legal agreements, and for all I know the other side wouldn't want to get out of it.”

He has been accused in several lawsuits of making crude remarks and creating uncomfortable workplace environments for women in the past. Three cases against his company are still active. 

One of Bloomberg’s primary opponents, progressive Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill Overnight Defense: Defense bill moving forward despite Trump veto threat over tech fight | Government funding bill hits snag | Top general talks Afghanistan, Pentagon budget Katie Porter in heated exchange with Mnuchin: 'You're play-acting to be a lawyer' MORE (D-Mass.) called on the former mayor late last year to respond to the concerns and called nondisclosure agreements a “way for people to hide bad things they’ve done.” 

“When women raise concerns like this, we have to pay attention. We have to listen to them," Warren told reporters in December, while campaigning in Iowa. "And if Michael Bloomberg has made comments like this, then he has to answer for them."

UltraViolet has raised similar concerns with the DNC over the debates. In October, UltraViolet called on the DNC to cancel its primary debate on MSNBC, citing the network’s parent company NBCUniversal's decision not to launch a new investigation into former anchor Matt LauerMatthew (Matt) Todd LauerComcast shareholders reject proposals for outside sexual harassment investigation at NBC Ronan Farrow fires back at Matt Lauer 'shoddy journalism' accusation: 'Just wrong' Megyn Kelly calls independent Tara Reade interview the 'wave of the future' MORE

The call came amid the release of Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill,” which included a number of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse within the network, including allegations that Lauer raped an NBC employee. Lauer denied the allegations.