Since former Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, speculation has swirled around virtually every aspect of his campaign including his age, his money, his record as progressive versus moderate, etc.

What has been less discussed, however, is how his leadership role in a global media empire can inflame the claims from the far right of media bias and “fake news” in the United States. Distrust of the media has been an enduring weapon in the Trump administration’s arsenal, and was instrumental in propelling the President to the White House in 2016.

Since his election, hatred of the media has been growing even more among extreme elements of his supporters, often to frightening levels.

Bloomberg On Bloomberg: The Company And The Man

In a move that is not likely to calm these fears, Bloomberg News has announced that it will not be investigating Bloomberg (the candidate) during his presidential run. In a memo to staff issued over the weekend, Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait wrote:

“We will write about virtually all aspects of this presidential contest in much the same way as we have done so far. We will describe who is winning and who is losing. We will look at policies and their consequences. We will carry polls, we will interview candidates and we will track their campaigns, including Mike’s.”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has confirmed he is running for president
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has confirmed he is running for president AFP / Timothy A. CLARY

Bloomberg News has readily admitted that covering a Bloomberg candidacy will be difficult. In a political climate where anti-media sentiment is at an all-time high, the company faces unprecedented challenges with maintaining its independence in covering the man who, on some level, signs their checks.

Michael Bloomberg's businesses employ more than 19,000 people across 69 countries. The privately owned Bloomberg LP and its Bloomberg News division employ some 2,400 journalists, including 1,000 in Washington, and includes online and television media operations.

Navigating New Ethical Waters

Micklethwait also notes in his memo: “There is no point in trying to claim that covering this presidential campaign will be easy for a newsroom that has built up its reputation for independence in part by not writing about ourselves (and very rarely about our direct competitors). No previous presidential candidate has owned a journalistic organization of this size. We have electoral laws to follow — to do with both balance and opinion. We will certainly obey them, but I think we need to do more than just that — and I believe we can.”

The organization has suspended its editorial board and will only take non-election-related op-eds from outside writers. It will continue to cover the Trump administration, and all other areas of U.S. and global politics.

“The place where Mike has had the most contact with Editorial is Bloomberg Opinion: our editorials have reflected his views,” Micklethwait said.

It remains to be seen, however, whether these measures will be enough to prevent the current administration and its supporters from weaponizing this potential conflict to stoke fires of media mistrust.