Andrew Yang faced an onslaught of criticism Thursday after a video circulated of the leading mayoral candidate laughing when asked if he “choked b—-es.”
In the video, someone asks the mayoral front-runner whether a man, “while he’s f—ing b—-es, can he keep his Timbs on?” — a reference to Timberland boots. Yang said, “I think it’s purely up to your partner.”
The man continued by asking Yang whether he “choke[s] b—-es,” to which Yang laughed and backed away, appearing to gesture with his hand that the conversation was over.
“I think most New Yorkers know that I try to be friendly to people, and in this case someone wanted a video and I thought I’d be friendly,” Yang told reporters Thursday when asked about the clip. “But then he said something that was plainly inappropriate that I didn’t find funny at all and so I walked away and ended the interaction as quickly as possible. You know, obviously I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
But Yang’s engagement with the questioner after he used the word “b—-es” and his laughter at the suggestion of violence against women drew comparisons from rival campaigns and critics to former President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who is facing a litany of sexual harassment accusations from former and current staffers.
“We have seen four years of a president who joked about sexually assaulting women and still got elected,” said fellow mayoral candidate Maya Wiley during an emotional Zoom press conference Thursday, held with supporters and survivors to condemn Yang’s participation in the video. “We should be called to lead for a moral leadership that says exactly how we have to stand up for each other. And that means every last one of us has to stand up for women and girls, because we count.”
Wiley’s remarks were echoed by supporters and survivor advocates on the Zoom conference.
“He isn’t winning the hearts and minds of women here in New York City by laughing at misogynistic jokes,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW New York. “And I hope that today is a wake-up call for him and a wake-up call for the voters of New York City.”
Rita Pasarell, a co-founder of the New York Sexual Harassment Working Group — which does not endorse in political races — recalled her own experiences with sexual violence and strangulation. She cited Cuomo as well as disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who was accused of physical abuse toward women.
“We’ve really all been in the room when someone makes a joke out of women’s dignity and safety and in those moments, we decide who we are,” she said. “Today we saw again who Yang is, and that is somebody who chose the comfort of the moment ahead of women’s lives. He chose seeming cool ahead of women’s safety, and women cannot afford another leader who is afraid to stand up for women’s safety in New York.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s mayoral campaign released a statement earlier in the day, signed by a quintet of Democratic female state lawmakers, calling Yang’s behavior in the video “disqualifying for someone who is seeking to be mayor of New York.”
“Language like this perpetuates real violence against women,” said the statement, attributed to state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblymembers Linda Rosenthal, Nily Rozic, Carmen De La Rosa and Catalina Cruz. The statement went on to cast Yang’s laughing at the question as part of a pattern that follows “reports of toxic masculinity, misogyny, and bro-culture that have defined his past campaigns and companies.”
Pressed on the fact that he laughed in the video, Yang said he did so because he was shocked that the conversation took that turn.
“You’re in a posture when you’re trying to be friendly to someone and then you’re shocked and surprised that all of a sudden it goes in that direction, so I reacted to end the interaction as quickly as possible,” he said.