Andrew Yang, the former presidential aspirant now running for mayor of New York City, has failed to win the endorsement of an LGBTQ+ group and aroused the opposition of fellow Asian-Americans.
Yang met Wednesday night with the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City to be interviewed as the club considered who to endorse for mayor, but he delivered remarks that members viewed as “pandering and tone deaf,” The New York Times reports.
He mentioned having gay staff members, expressed a desire to visit the lesbian bar Cubbyhole, and talked about restarting the city’s Pride March, “but failed to pay sufficient heed to more substantive issues they were actually concerned about, including homelessness and affordable housing,” according to the Times.
“I genuinely do love you and your community,” he said in remarks that were recorded. “You’re so human and beautiful. You make New York City special. I have no idea how we ever lose to the Republicans given that you all are frankly in, like, leadership roles all over the Democratic Party. … We have, like, this incredible secret weapon. It’s not even secret. It’s like, we should win everything because we have you all.”
“He kept calling us ‘Your community,’ like we were aliens,” club member Harris Doran said. Other members thought his focus on bars off-putting and noted that his repeatedly said “gay,” ignoring the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
Doran later told NBC News, “It was like he never met a gay person in his life, even though he kept reminding us people on his staff were gay. It was like tokenizing us.”
To the Times, Club member Alejandra Caraballo said, “When I see a candidate come in just with Michael Scott levels of cringe and insensitivity, it either tells me Andrew Yang is in over his head or is not listening to his staff,” a reference to the character played by Steve Carell on The Office. “Those are both radioactive flashing signs that say he is not prepared to be mayor of New York,” Caraballo added.
Sasha Neha Ahuja, one of Yang’s two campaign managers, both gay, defended him. “I hope Andrew continues to have space for folks to listen with an open heart about the experiences of all communities that have been deeply impacted by years of oppression,” she told the Times. “I apologize if folks felt some type of way about it.”
Yang was never the front-runner in the race for the Stonewall Democratic Club’s endorsement, but the Wednesday interview apparently quashed his chances for good. Club members, after interviewing nine candidates, voted to endorse Scott Stringer, currently city comptroller. Mayor Bill de Blasio is term-limited, so there is a crowded race to succeed him. The Democratic and Republican primaries will be held June 22 and the general election November 2.
Yang, the son of immigrants from Taiwan and a businessman before going into politics, has been leading in polls of Democratic voters, with 22 percent favoring him in a recent survey. But now he has not only offended the LGBTQ+ club but raised the ire of some Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.
More than 400 API-Americans living in New York this week signed a letter against Yang’s candidacy and launched a website opposing him, saying representation “is simply not enough,” NextShark reports.
“The letter cites Yang’s Washington Post op-ed ‘urging’ Asian Americans to show their ‘American-ness’ amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his ‘anti-Black comments’ about applicants to his nonprofit Venture for America, and his recent absence in a progressive Muslim forum to appear in a conservative podcast,” according to NextShark. “The group also criticizes the candidate for his pro-policing stances, including his call for increased funding for the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force instead of community-based alternatives.”