Mike Bloomberg Says It's Not His Job to Stop Wal-Mart -- Despite Mexican Bribery Scandal

bloomberg in brooklyn.JPG
Sam Levin
Mayor Mike Bloomberg at a press conference this afternoon in Brooklyn.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg doesn't necessarily support Wal-Mart -- he just supports government staying out of the corporation's way.

The business-friendly mayor commented today on Walmart's campaign to open a store in New York City, a day after the New York Times exposed a $24 million bribery scheme -- and coverup -- at the company's largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico.

The controversy has already dealt a significant blow to Wal-Mart and likely won't help its efforts to move to the Big Apple.

Asked about the controversy today, Bloomberg didn't defend the company -- but he didn't criticize it either. Instead, he emphasized his stance on new business coming to the city.

After a press conference on a new NYU partnership in Brooklyn, a reporter questioned the mayor on the latest news, noting that Bloomberg has been a supporter of Walmart.

"No, I've not been a big supporter of Wal-Mart. I've been a big supporter of government not telling people whether they can do business here," the mayor interrupted. "I think you let the market decide whether people want jobs or not, whether people want to buy products at given price ranges...and I think that's exactly what this is all about.

He continued, "I have no idea what Wal-Mart did in Mexico, whether any of that stuff's true or not. We'll have to see. It's one story in the paper."

Two expected mayoral candidates took the news yesterday as an opportunity to further criticize Walmart and call on the city to shut the company out. Yesterday, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer both emailed out statements of discontent, calling Walmart a bad and untrustworthy neighbor that doesn't respect workers' rights. Apparently more mayoral hopefuls, likely trying to court anti-Wal-Mart voters, also spoke out against the chain today.

When asked whether this kind of controversy should impact Wal-Mart's plans for New York, Bloomberg relied again on Economics 101, referring to the power of the market.

"Walmart has the right to come here and open a store anytime they want, and if they don't need a land use change, they don't have to consult with anybody and that's the way it should be. And you don't have to work there or patronize them. Or you can apply for a job and give them your business. It's totally up to you," he said.

[SamTLevin / @SamTLevin]

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