At Bloomberg News, Watching the Old Boss

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is dismissing speculation that he'll run for the White House, which was aroused by his announcement that he is quitting the Republican party. Commentators have pointed out that as a billionaire, he has the resources to run as an independent. All of that leaves some uneasiness at the company that made him a billionaire.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is dismissing speculation that he'll run for the White House.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Republican, New York): Oh, that's a hypothetical question. If everybody in the world was dead and I was the only one alive, yeah, sure. I mean, come on. Not - no, that's...

MONTAGNE: Of course Bloomberg fueled that speculation when he announced he's quitting the Republican Party. Commentators have pointed out that as a billionaire, he has the resources to run as an independent. All of that leaves some uneasiness at the company that made him a billionaire.

That's because journalists at Bloomberg News, the financial news service, have questions about how the owner will be covered.

Here's NPR's David Folkenflik.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Michael Bloomberg was like catnip to cable news shows yesterday.

Unidentified Man #1: For a couple of political junkies like the three of us, come on, man, it's gets - this is like Super Bowl Sunday for football fans.

Unidentified Man #2: He's sharply critical of a partisanship that he sees paralyzing the federal government. And boy, is he right about that.

FOLKENFLIK: The one place you didn't hear much about Michael Bloomberg was Bloomberg TV. In fact, the Bloomberg news show called "Money and Politics," both synonymous with the billionaire mayor, gave him just 30 seconds and the perennial disclaimer.

(Soundbite of "Money and Politics")

Unidentified Man #3: Bloomberg, of course, is the principal owner of Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of this network.

FOLKENFLIK: And there's the rub. Though he no longer runs the company, Michael Bloomberg's political maneuvers are forcing tough questions inside it.

Mr. ROGER SIMON (Former Columnist, Bloomberg News): It's a challenge for them. It would be a challenge for any news organization where the owner is running for political office and they have to cover it. They may have to cover it on a daily basis.

FOLKENFLIK: That's former Bloomberg News columnist Roger Simon. He believes Bloomberg News will ultimately maintain its credibility while treating the mayor's national ambitions fairly, but says they haven't yet figured out how to do so.

Bloomberg News's audience is still largely made up of stock and bond traders who rent terminals that provide specialized financial data. But its reach is expanding through newspapers and on cable, and its reporting is growing too, especially in Washington.

Six years ago, when Bloomberg first ran for mayor, editor in chief Matthew Winkler initially announced he'd avoid conflicts of interest by not covering New York politics at all.

Former Bloomberg News political correspondent Dick Kyle says colleagues changed Winkler's mind.

Mr. DICK KYLE (Former Political Correspondent, Bloomberg News): I think everybody knew that Matt was coming from the right place, but some people suggested - and correctly, I think - that to take a pass on covering the race would essentially be giving the appearance of giving the mayor a pass.

FOLKENFLIK: A half-dozen current and former Bloomberg journalists interviewed say Michael Bloomberg has never interfered. But several say Bloomberg News often shows exaggerated restraint in covering the mayor and his personal financial interests.

Bloomberg News executives did not respond to requests for comment. Two Bloomberg News staffers tell NPR that John Meehan, a senior Bloomberg TV executive, ruled out using any tape of the mayor's comments yesterday, and for that matter ruled out remarks from a noted rival, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

At a press conference yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg denied he was looking toward Washington, but acknowledged all the attention he's getting.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: I thought, you know, I'm not running for president and I'm going to be mayor for the next 925 days. But there's a reason why my picture was there. They thought that I would be a credible candidate. They must think that I'm doing a decent job.

FOLKENFLIK: That's not quite credible, says Roger Simon, who's now at the Washington journal called The Politico.

Mr. SIMON: He keeps doing things like making speeches in key presidential states. And now, switching parties, or becoming an independent, when there is really no terrible imperative for him to do so, you would have to conclude that he wants people at least to think he is running for president of the United States.

FOLKENFLIK: President Bush was asked about the mayor yesterday. He joked he liked Bloomberg a lot, telling reporters it's a fine news organization.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: Our own political editor, Ken Rudin, sizes up Bloomberg's potential presidential bid in his Political Junkie column at npr.org.

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