Naked Cowboy Mention During Democratic Debate Gets Social Media Chirping

Tuesday night's Democratic debate featured some odd cultural references and turns of phrase, leaving some viewers scratching their heads. Among them was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reference to the "Naked Cowboy." While those who have visited NYC may know him well, others were completely in the dark.

The frontrunners for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election gathered on one stage in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday night for a debate broadcast on CBS News. Among them was Mayor Bloomberg, a latecomer to the race who showed a concerted effort to humanize himself and show his sense of humor.

Some of his jokes may have been too local for the broader audience, however, such as his reference to NYC's "naked cowboy." Those who have visited the city may know about the street performers in Times Square, including an actor named Robert John Burck who walks around wearing only a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, white briefs and a guitar to cover himself.

Those that have not heard of him, however, may have been thrown off when Bloomberg mentioned him out of the blue. The joke came during a question about one of Bloomberg's policies as the mayor of NYC, when he banned trans fats from all restaurants in the city. Bloomberg was asked if he would implement the same kind of policy nationwide.

"New York City isn't like all other cities, otherwise you would have a naked cowboy in every city," Bloomberg joked.

Viewers online puzzled over the joke. Even some who got it wondered why Bloomberg would say it on the national stage, saying her was sure to alienate some people with it.

Bloomberg supported and implemented a number of public health initiatives in New York City. In addition to the trans fats ban, he banned the sale of large containers of sugary sodas in grocery stores and convenience markets. He also raised the age at which people could buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, and banned flavored tobacco and e-cigarette cartridges from the city.

Bloomberg implied that he would not try to impose these restrictions on the entire country if elected president, based on his joking answer. Meanwhile, the other line that raised eyebrows on Tuesday night did not seem to be meant as a joke.


It came from Senator Amy Klobuchar, who said that her gun law reform proposals would not "hurt my Uncle Dick in the deer stand." The comment seemed like a folksy way to say that she did not want to impede on the rights of hunters or sports shooters, but the phrasing had viewers uneasy.

The next Democratic primary debate is scheduled for Sunday, March 15, and will air on CNN.