New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang desperately tried to win the endorsement of a prominent Democratic LGBT+ group – and failed, hard.
On Wednesday (21 April) Yang was among several candidates interviewed by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City before voting on an endorsement.
He attempted to curry favour with the LGBT+ community but only managed to cause offence with a bizarre, “cringeworthy” speech that smacked of tokenism, members said.
“It was like he never met a gay person his life, even though he kept reminding us people on his staff were gay,” filmmaker Harris Doran, who attended the meeting, told NBC News. “It was like tokenizing us.”
Describing his great affection for LGBT+ people, Yang said: “I genuinely do love you and your community. 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,” he continued. “It’s not even secret. It’s like, we should win everything because we have you all.”
His speech struck many as “pandering and tone deaf,” according to members who spoke to the New York Times. “He was talking to us like we were children or aliens,” Doran said.
Yang made frequent, awkward references to “your community” and repeatedly cited gay members of his staff as apparent proof of his support for the group’s interests.
“Gay, gay, gay. Wow,” one member wrote in the chat for those watching the video, according to the Times.
He also expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of visiting Cubbyhole, a famous New York lesbian bar, as he’d be joined by the aforementioned gay staff.
“Well, first, let me say that if I go to Cubbyhole, I think I’m going to be accompanied by at least one of my two campaign managers who are both gay,” he suggested.
“So there’s like, a lot of, you know, familiarity with the community at the head of my campaign leading it.”
Multiple participants described Yang’s remarks as offensive, saying that members of the club who raised policy issues found his mention of gay bars off-putting.
“He came across like he was a tourist in New York and said he wanted to visit a gay bar,” Rose Christ, the president of SDNYC, told Politico.
SDNYC leaders complained that he did not address substantive issues that affect the community – such as the murders of trans women, inequitable access to health care and housing, and dangerous genital surgery on infants with intersex traits, to name a few.
Yang’s campaign managers defended his comments, but focused only on the subject of gay bars.
“If other campaigns want to minimise the importance of visiting and supporting LGBTQ businesses, they’re welcome to do so. But gay bars are an essential part of our City and its history,” they said in a statement to Politico.
“They are quite literally safe havens for our community, and keeping them here and open is critical. This is why Andrew has prioritised meeting with LGBTQ business owners who invited him in – because he understands that we need to protect and lift up those spaces if we want our recovery to be inclusive and meaningful.”
The group ended up endorsing Yang’s opponent, city comptroller Scott Stringer.