The actor tells PEOPLE that Bloomberg offers "a rare opportunity to coalesce and bring us back together"

By Sean Neumann
January 21, 2020 08:00 AM
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Michael Douglas wants to see former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in the White House.

On Tuesday morning the Academy Award-winning actor officially endorsed Bloomberg in the 2020 election, telling PEOPLE that he “hasn’t been this excited” about a presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy.

“I feel so blessed that in this particularly difficult time that we have one of the greatest candidates in the history of our elections,” says Douglas, 75.

In his view, Bloomberg offers “a rare opportunity to coalesce and bring us back together, get rid of all this horrid, negative scare tactics that are going on, and the fact that he’s succeeded to the degree that he has is phenomenal.”

Bloomberg, 77, is the billionaire head of his eponymous media and financial company. He previously spent three terms as the mayor of N.Y.C., from 2002 to 2013.

Even so, his candidacy faces significant headwinds: He announced his bid for the presidency in late November, almost a year after other candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And, in an unusual move, he has avoided the earliest-voting primary states (where he polls weakly) in an effort to attract voters in larger states on “Super Tuesday” and beyond.

Some have pointed to Bloomberg’s somewhat unorthodox political background as attractive to an abstract moderate coalition, given his record (and him having switched parties multiple times over the years).

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg
Larry Busacca/Getty

Still, that record has come under new scrutiny. In an unusual move for Bloomberg, he distanced himself from some of his decisions and behavior. He has been criticized for his “stop and frisk” policing policy during his tenure as mayor, given that it largely targeted people of color. He apologized last year.

His history of sometimes demeaning comments about women was also denounced by his campaign. “He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life,” an aide told The New York Times.

Bloomberg, who didn’t qualify for the last Democratic debate, has made it clear he’s ready to spend big from his vast personal fortune leading up to the primaries in the spring and summer. The business media mogul reportedly spent more than $248 million in TV ads in the first eight weeks of his campaign, according to Politico.

Both Bloomberg and incumbent President Donald Trump spent a reported $10 million each for 60-second ads during the Super Bowl next month.

Douglas says criticism or concern about Bloomberg’s spending — what others in the race have contended is essentially an effort to buy himself voters in lieu of persuading them through campaigning — is “a little unfair.”

“The fact that he doesn’t need people to pay for his campaign means that he doesn’t owe anybody,” Douglas says. “Do I hope eventually that money in political campaigns will become a thing of the past? Certainly. I think Mike would be one of the first ones to say that.”

Michael Douglas
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Douglas joins other stars in speaking out in the final weeks before voting begins. Recently, actress Vivica A. Fox (who is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden), TV’s c (Bloomberg) and soccer star Megan Rapinoe (supporting Warren) have all endorsed.

Both Douglas and Sheindlin credit Bloomberg for his entrepreneurial expertise and told PEOPLE that his experience running the company would translate to the Oval Office.

Like Sheindlin, Douglas also says Bloomberg’s experience as mayor of the country’s largest city is a major reason for his endorsement.

“I feel that all those years as mayor have really helped him with budgets,” Douglas says. “With all respect to [Pete] Buttigieg, we’re talking about a city of 12 million people.”

Douglas says he’s “very proud” of the rest of the Democratic candidates, but he’s worried a candidate that’s too far to the left would only divide the country further.

“I don’t know if we are ready for a dramatic change in policies or if we’re working more just to fix some of the things that are wrong,” Douglas says. “A little tweaking might be in order and make audiences feel a little more secure before we have anything of a dramatic change taking place.”

Bloomberg announced that he re-registered as a Democrat in October 2018.

“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” he said when he announced his run last fall. “We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions.”

While a common criticism against Bloomberg is that he used to be a Republican, Douglas instead says he sees that as a beneficial quality.

“I think he’s the one that’s going to bring everybody together: those of the people in the middle, those Republicans who are uncomfortable with how things are going,” Douglas says. “I think all can feel comfortable under Mike’s umbrella.”