ARLINGTON, Va. — Senator Elizabeth Warren took aim Thursday night at Michael Bloomberg in her first campaign appearance since the New Hampshire primary, slamming the billionaire for comments that surfaced this week blaming the end of the discriminatory home lending practice of redlining for the 2008 financial crisis.
“That crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists, and anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party,” Warren said at a town hall event in a high school gym that drew more than 4,000 people.
It was a rare direct attack by Warren on a rival in the Democratic presidential race and came after her disappointing showing in Tuesday’s primary.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is rising in national polls, had said in a 2008 forum hosted by Georgetown University that the mortgage meltdown that triggered the financial crisis began when banks stopped discriminating against minorities and the poor whose neighborhoods were outlined in red on maps.
“It all started back when there was a lot of pressure on banks to make loans to everyone,” Bloomberg said at the forum. “Redlining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, ‘People in these neighborhoods are poor, they’re not going to be able to pay off their mortgages, tell your salesmen don’t go into those areas.’”
Warren brought up the Bloomberg controversy less than three minutes into her remarks after taking a dig at him for coming into the Democratic race “on the billionaire plan" with the strategy of “just buy yourself a nomination.”
Bloomberg has been criticized for his racial policies as New York City mayor, particularly a police initiative called "stop and frisk” that targeted young Black men. The redlining comments came after a 2015 audio clip also surfaced this week of Bloomberg defending “stop and frisk”
Thursday’s town hall was Warren’s first campaign event since her fourth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday. That followed a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and has left her campaign desperately in need of a boost as the race heads to its next stage.
Warren is vowing to press on through contests in Nevada and South Carolina this month and on Super Tuesday March 3, when Virginia and 13 other states hold primaries. Many Warren supporters said Thursday they weren’t phased by her performances in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Quentin McHoes, a 22-year-old college student from Wyoming, said he expected Warren to perform the way she did in the first two contests based on the demographics of the states. Iowa and New Hampshire both have populations that are more than 90 percent white.
“I’d like to see how she performs a little bit later before I lose any faith in her whatsoever,” he said. “I am completely solid in my faith in her still.”
Beth Anderson, a facility manager from Alexandria, said although she has been considering other candidates, Warren is at the top of her list. Even after Warren’s performances in the first two contests, she is not disheartened.
“We’ve had one caucus and one primary in very small states with very few delegates so it’s just the beginning,” Anderson said.
However, Anne Purcell, a 71-year-old retiree from Arlington said Warren’s New Hampshire results were “very disappointing" considering the senator is from neighboring Massachusetts and has “an incredible [campaign] network”
“It makes me worried about her, particularly New Hampshire, I just was kind of floored by how badly she did there,” she said. Despite calling herself “a Warren supporter," Purcell said she was still undecided on who she would vote for.