World

Trump, Bloomberg call each other racist as election fight heats up

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday accused each other of being racist, escalating a war of words between the two wealthy businessmen.

Mr Trump fired the first volley, posting a 2015 audio clip via Twitter of Mr Bloomberg defending his use of a controversial policing strategy from his time as New York's mayor between 2002 and 2013 known as "stop and frisk".

"WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!" Mr Trump wrote in the since-deleted tweet.

Mr Trump has also backed the policy.

Mr Bloomberg, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge the Republican Trump in the Nov 3 election, apologised for his use of the policing strategy last November a few days before announcing his candidacy.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Bloomberg cited what he called his commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity, adding: "In contrast, President Trump inherited a country marching towards greater equality and divided us with racist appeals and hateful rhetoric."

The two men - Mr Trump earned his fortune in real estate and Mr Bloomberg made his billions selling financial information - have been locked in a war of words, with Mr Trump lobbing insults at Mr Bloomberg in a sign of how seriously he takes the 77-year-old's candidacy.

Mr Bloomberg is not competing in the first four Democratic nomination contests, but is mounting an expensive nationwide campaign ahead of the primaries next month.

He has risen in public opinion polls while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television advertisements.

In the recording attached to Mr Trump's tweet, Mr Bloomberg is heard saying that the way to keep guns out of kids' hands is to "throw them up against the walls and frisk them".

The stop-and-frisk policy encouraged the police to stop and search pedestrians and ensnared disproportionate numbers of blacks and Latinos.

In his statement on Tuesday, Mr Bloomberg said: "I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities."

Mr Trump, 73, backed stop-and-frisk before and after he became president in 2017. - REUTERS

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