The Andrew Yang Affair

Andrew Yang, as of this week the front-runner for mayor of New York City, did nothing unethical.

Well, allow me to modify that. Allowing yourself to be placed at the mercy of a stranger while being videoed is political incompetence. And his fake laugh was too convincing.

The video above, since the news media no longer allows the public to hear or read essential aspects of such stories because journalists regard themselves as public censors, is confusing, so here is what transpired.

The whole, unblurred, unbleeped video is on TikTok, and WordPress won’t let me embed TikTok. Someone the candidate to let him take a phone video as another stranger, a smiling and giddy black man, asks Yang whether a man, “while he’s fucking bitches, can he keep his Timbs on?.” — a reference to Timberland boots. Yang’s answer, under the circumstances, is pretty deft: “I think it’s purely up to your partner.”

Then the classy New Yorker asks Yang whether he “choke[s] bitches,” and Yang laughs—convincingly, I must say— and leaves.


Yang’s polite engagement with the man after he used the word “bitches” and his apparently hardy laughter after the “choke bitches” line made him an inviting target of feminists and his rivals.

“We have seen four years of a president who joked about sexually assaulting women and still got elected,” said mayoral candidate Maya Wiley during her Zoom press conference quickly set up with victims of male sexual violence so she could take advantage of Yang’s gaffe. “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.” “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, said, “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, endorsed by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly members Linda Rosenthal, Nily Rozic, Carmen De La Rosa and Catalina Cruz.

Yang’s explanation, useless to him as it probably is, was nonetheless honest and true as well as exactly what I assumed when I watched the uncensored video. “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 yesterday. “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.”

Nobody is mentioning it , but the uncivil, misogynist creep who put Yang in this bind was an African-American, so any negative, rude or dismissive response by Yang would have been perceived in racial terms by many, and he would have been tarred as a “racist.” Yang took Elwood P. Dowd’s advice from “Harvey”: when in doubt, be nice. Expressing disdain and lecturing the man would have done nothing to change his attitudes, and it would have breached the Categorical Imperative, exploiting a human being for personal gain.

As for the laugh, that’s social balm in awkward encounters. The duty to confront, which Ethics Alarms discusses often, becomes relevant when unethical conduct is involved, not mere words. If a woman had been present, Yang would have had an obligation to confront the man over her disrespect and denigration of her. His mistake, and it is an understandable one, is forgetting that the video would be posted and become public, meaning that the creep’s attitude and misogyny would be inflicted on women, and he had been made an unwitting assessory.

I was once in a resort limo being driven to the airport with a colleague. The driver was doing us a big favor, because, well, it’s a long story, but he was getting us to a flight we were in danger of missing. When h began talking like Joseph Goebbels, and I’m not exaggerating, I was in the front seat, and trapped with this Nazi for almost 45 minutes. I recall laughing, maybe not as hardily as Yang, but convincingly enough, at some of his racist jokes, while my colleague in the back seat behind him looked like the audience after the opening number in “Springtime for Hitler.” (After I got home, I complained to the resort.) “Wow, that was impressive,” my friend said. “My other option was opening the door and diving onto the street,” I said. In the situation we were in, this idiots’ racial biases didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to reform him, but I did have to make that flight.

I often have shuddered, however, at the thought of a hidden limo-cam filming me appearing to be pals with David Duke. The Golden Rule applies. I have been in Yang’s position, but I was lucky. The difference between us is moral luck. I empathize, sympathize, and pronounce him blameless—except that he was doomed the second he agreed to the video.

“Ethics is what you do when you think nobody’s looking” is an excellent concept, but we also have to be generous and compassionate when interactions among two people suddenly are shared with the world, thanks to our destructive technologies. Every one of us has had moments when we would look and sound terrible if we had been videoed and the result shared with the world, and every one of us will have more.

I guess I also have to mention:

  • I can’t deny the schadenfreude seeing a Democrat caught in this kind of “gotcha!” after all the posturing and fury over Donald Trump’s leaked banter with Billy Bush.
  • Ironies abound here. The Asian-American candidate for NYC mayor is being unfairly attacked as his party is virtue-signaling about a supposed “wave” of hate against Asian-Americans. The rule, as I interpret it, is that any negative conduct toward an Asian-American by another individual of a different race is presumptive motivate by racist hate, unless you are running for mayor of New York City.
  • Nah, the attitude of the “jokester” with Yang on the video isn’t illustrative of an ugly current in the African-American culture that the black community’s leadership pretends doesn’t exist! What a racist thing to even suggest!
  • It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the same party loyalists and feminists who can so passionately condemn male sexism and misogyny somehow didn’t think Joe Biden’s serial sexual assault and harassment was “disqualifying,” or even worth mentioning?


Source: Politico

35 thoughts on “The Andrew Yang Affair

  1. Yang’s an outsider and not a “professional” pol. He’s like Trump in that respect. He needs to be neutralized ASAP so the field can be left to the full-time grifters. What are these people like Trump and Yang thinking? Do they think just anybody can grow up to be president?

  2. You didn’t once consider telling this Nazi limo driver to shut up, already? Where I work they put a rule in place last year that if someone tells a racist joke or says something racist you HAVE to call them out on it on the spot and report them immediately, or YOU will be fired also. You can’t laugh it off, you can’t turn back to your work and refuse to engage, you can’t push them off with a mild rebuke like, “come on, this is an office, not a truck yard,” or even with a warning like, “that’s not appropriate, and if you say anything like it again, I’m going to have no choice but to report you.” You have to go straight to your boss and relate everything that was said, then the boss has to suspend that person on the spot pending termination. I don’t know if termination for one inappropriate joke is appropriate, and I don’t know if the administrative courts will see it that way, but in this current environment, there’s zero tolerance.

    • The current environment is as fascist as my driver. I would not work in a place with that kind of rule regarding private conversations. Third party harassment is a different issue, and, of course, that was his workplace, not mine.

      • Unfortunately, the death of George Floyd turbocharged a lot of plans that a lot of politicians had for speech codes, etc.

        Here’s the press release:

        Newark –June 5, 2020– Mayor Ras J. Baraka will ask the Newark City Council to approve an ordinance that will denounce hate crimes and racism, police brutality and declare white supremacy groups as terrorists in the City of Newark.

        “We are long overdue on a measure such as this,” Mayor Baraka said. “For this country to heal, we must begin to legally challenge the insidious and dehumanizing tenets of white supremacy, once and for all. We must stand up forcefully against racism and have the courage to take on the legal challenges an ordinance such as this will attract.”

        Newark Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart said, “We will welcome challenges to the ordinance. You can’t enjoy free speech when you can’t breathe, and our first human right is to be able to live.”

        The ordinance will do the following, under a new Office of Violence Prevention, whose coordinator will be appointed by Mayor Baraka:

        Manage policy initiatives and programs that advance the City’s anti-violence initiatives.
        Use data to inform City’s investments in violence prevention, assuring targeted approaches to violence prevention in City government and the community at large.
        Develop comprehensive community-based anti-violence initiatives within all City Departments.
        Establish a “see something, say something, do something” policy to demand that all City of Newark employees immediately intervene and report blatant civil rights violations by other employees, including police and fire. All acts of racism by City of Newark employees will result in automatic termination. Employees who fail to take action if they witness these acts will also be terminated.
        Establish a database (registry) of hate groups now existing within the United States and add to that list as new groups are identified. Hate groups are defined as those that vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity.
        The ordinance will also declare these hate groups, including groups characterized as White Supremacists, Nazi groups, the KKK, as terrorists, ban them from the City and make any actions by them illegal.
        The ordinance will also close the 1st Precinct of the Newark Police Division on 17th Avenue by December 31, 2021, and the building will be transitioned into a museum detailing the history of the Newark Police Department including the positive progress it has made with community relations, an office of workforce development, the headquarters for the Anti-Violence Initiative and a trauma center for health recovery and healing from acts of violence.

        “This ordinance is no publicity stunt,” Mayor Baraka said of the impending law to outlaw hate groups. “These groups are a serious threat right here in New Jersey.”

    • What if you do not recognize it as such? How can they have a policy that assumes you know what every possible racist inference is? If someone used an OK sign does that count? There are a lot of things that people say that are racist that others do not recognize as such. As well, that is such a moving goalpost that what was fine yesterday (ie.. “[We should] not be judged by the color of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character) is today considered racist in some circles, and not everyone knows that. Imagine getting fired for failing to report someone for something you did not know had a racial connotation.

  3. This “bystander responsibility” trend is scary. Everybody is supposed to turn into Joe Walsh castigating Joe McCarthy anytime somebody says something a little out of tune. At least with Yang he can take his plight to voters who can decide whether it matters or not. If he was a college professor he’d be gone. Professor Batson at Georgetown Law resigned for much less.

  4. I’m pretty sure that it’s a norm in Asia to respond to discomfort or disappointment with a grin or laughter. Thus, criticizing Yang in this case is racist.

    Of course, laughter is a normal response to anything that is surprising or unexpected. That’s how punchlines work.

  5. Hmm. The embedded link right before you say, “WordPress won’t let me embed TikTok” actually goes to TikTok. So, is that the full video?
    And, if Yang is laughing “convincingly”, he is a damn good actor because it looks genuine to me, and, in his explanation, he ignores it, making that explanation something less than honest. Signature significance or a one-off? I don’t know enough about Yang to answer, but in the video it looks more like the former.
    “If a woman had been present, Yang would have had an obligation to confront the man over her [his?] disrespect and denigration of her.” No! He had an obligation right then and there no matter who else was present. He should have ended it at the first use of the word “fuck”.

    • 1. I can link to Tik Tok. I can’t embed it.
      2. You really think he found “choke the bitch” funny? It’s not even a joke. I’ve laughed and left after worse than that from relatives. “Ha-ha bye” is SOP for dealing with ambushes by assholes. And while I know nobody get teh benefit of the doubt any more (which is what ethical people give), Yang deserves that here.
      3. This is in the same category as firing the Georgetown adjunct based on what his colleague said—except that what she said was accurate and reasonable.

        • Speaking as someone who’s probably closer to Yang in terms of temperament and upbringing than a lot of the other commentators here, it’s probably just as likely that he was laughing in the same way people laugh when Borat or Eric Andre (or their interviewees) say something unexpectedly ridiculous or out of line; basically, a “whoa, did he just say that on camera?” way. Indeed, if we were all just characters in a satire, I suspect the interview would have been a scene where the audience is expected to cringe laugh. The important part is that, laughing or not, Yang ended the conversation right there as far as we can tell. From what I can tell, he’s very much not a confrontational guy, as shown by his reluctance to aggressively assert himself during the primary debates; I’m pretty similar (despite what some of my old posts may otherwise indicate), having among other things quietly listened to an evangelical visiting my old campus who was trying to convert me to Christianity before noping out of there the first moment I could do so without seeming rude.

    • If I may-you’re both wrong, in my opinion. If a woman had been present, she could speak for herself. The left claims to hate men speaking on behalf of women, so it would be a grave insult to “defend her honor” when she’s right there to defend herself. Right?
      See, I’m a conservative female. If I were offended by a remark, I would be happy to say something myself, and happy if a gentleman also spoke up on my behalf. That said, I don’t believe he has an obligation to speak up on my behalf-not because I wouldn’t appreciate backup, but I’d only welcome it if he WANTED to do it, because he had a true objection (ethically or morally) to the comment made.
      This constant forcing of what HAS to be done, said, felt and thought creeps me out on so many levels. Obviously if someone makes a statement about something illegal, like “choking a bitch… till she’s dead”, well, that’s something to speak out against seriously. But maybe the guy was referring to kinky sex. It’s not MY thing, but as long as it’s between two consenting adults, who am I to decide what’s ok for them to enjoy privately?
      And if we’re talking purely about the pejorative term used in describing said act, well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. That’s just the way some people talk. I don’t talk that way, and I don’t personally like hearing talk like that, but policing speech is already way out of hand.
      I just think people have their priorities alllllll out of whack.

      • Great comment. This “mandatory ‘calling out’ thing” is incredibly corrosive. We are all obligated to promulgate the most bleeding edge progressive cant at all times at the risk of serious adverse consequences? When is “calling someone out” okay and when is it “mansplaining?” Is any and all “calling out” by white people “white supremacy?” This is not any way to run a civil society. It’s how you run a re-education camp.

        • I agree that a woman present could speak for herself, but I saw it as a conversation between two guys, one who was out of line and one who should have ended it. That he didn’t, I see as an ethics fail and politically stupid.

      • Who said she couldn’t speak for herself? The issue is conduct. If I stand by while someone else present is being denigrated—as in being referred to as a “bitch”—I am assenting to the conduct and enabling it. No, you don’t treat others like that in my presence. “That’s just the way some people talk”= “everybody does it.” Well, they don’t talk like that around me. I would usually tell someone to cut it out if we were alone, but there is no OBLIGATION to do so. If there is a third person their being denigrated, there is an obligation.

        “That’s just the way some people talk” gets this comment an ethics “F.” I’ll admonish you for THAT.

        • As a grown woman, being admonished like a child by a man should have me all up in arms, but I’m not. You’re entitled to your opinion AND the way you choose to speak to me.
          But I do want to make clear that if *I* were to admonish a black man who speaks in that manner, I’d be damned either way.
          If I complained about the way he spoke, not just the profanity & misogyny but also the lack of proper grammar, the progressives would call me racist for picking on the man because of his lack of education and lack of experience in having civilized conversation.
          And then they’d say that both of those unfortunate shortcomings were due to systemic racism. (Which as a white person would then implore me to take responsibility and apologize to him for my white privilege and lack of sensitivity to his plight.)
          See the vicious cycle?

          On the other hand, if I tried to be rational and engage him in a philosophical, informative discussion (“Sir, that speech is completely inappropriate and I’m offended on behalf of my gender”)…where would THAT lead? I have an idea:

          I’d be labeled “The Karen” of the week, at least in the eyes of the judgmental progressive public, for criticizing his “slang”.

          Maybe it could work if I were a woman of his exact race and social status. But I cannot speak to something that is “not my experience.”

          I’m just not low enough on the victimhood scoreboard to comment with any real impact on him at all.

          I agree that anyone of any race/gender should defend someone being denigrated. However, the “bitches” this twit was referring to were hypothetical, consensual sexual partners. It would be entirely different if he were referring to ME, the woman, specifically. Otherwise it cannot be denied that certain phrases offensive to both you and me, are embedded in certain subcultures. To imply otherwise would be naive. To try & fix it in this scenario would likely be fruitless if not disastrous.

          • I don’t know whether you are a grown woman or a Siamese cat, but I’m an ethicist and you’re commenting on an ethics blog. When you say things like “Hey, that how some people talk!” to excuse a guy talking like this to a stranger, on video, who is also a candidate, you’re going to get admonished, and deserve to be admonished.

            Read the commenting policies. Then read the rationalizations list.

            • Jack, I’m not sure how we got here but in no way did I excuse what the jacknut said. I’ve read this blog for nearly a decade and am very familiar with the commenting policies and the rationalizations list. I think you’re either taking my comment to Johnny out of context or not reading the entire thing. I’m in agreement with you 90% of the time, but I objected to both you stating that you would only defend a woman if she were present (in this situation where the woman present is NOT the hypothetical woman/women being talked about), and to Johnny in saying that you were obligated to defend the hypothetical woman even if it was just an exchange between two guys. I believe that if a woman were offended by a comment she could speak for herself, w/o needing anyone else to speak on behalf of her gender unless they WANTED to do so, and that in this particular situation, where an uneducated, misogynistic jerk was making comments about a hypothetical sexual partner, no one should be OBLIGATED to put him in his place or try to change an obviously tiny mind. That in this political climate, it would be a never-ending fight that could never be won, specifically for the reasons I laid out.

              • Perhaps I should have been more clear. I was not proposing that Yang defend anyone, but that he should have promptly ended the conversation at the first “fuck”. He could have said something like, “We’re done”, and walked away. Instead, he yukked it up which encouraged further misogyny, implied at least, and vulgarity. Who would want that kind of mayor, or friend for that matter.

              • Got it. But you understand that when excusing that kind of misogynist and obscene language is based on “they just talk that way,” I have to throw a flag. They shouldn’t talk that way unless they are in private, and even then it’s a bad habit. That’s how we maintain social norms and improve them. Speaking up.

  6. I used to work with a guy who was always making inappropriate jokes at work. Nothing that he said was actually offensive and he was actually extremely funny, but I knew that an over sensitive nutcase would someday overhear him and be offended. I warned him he was going to get fired for HR offenses. Two of my other coworkers warned him. At one point we started a running tally of all the HR violations he had committed in a day, to try and show him how many times a day he said inappropriate things. He didn’t listen, and he eventually moved to a different desk in the office to work on a different project. Then he got fired. The people on the other side of the room didn’t care that he was funny, only that he made jokes about race and gender. He was a POC, so being white had nothing to do with it.

    Talking to coworkers, or around coworkers, is not a very good idea these days. I keep my conversations to the bare minimum required to complete my work.

  7. Hypocrisy Alert!
    Did any of these women criticizing Yang vote for President Biden? If they did then they only have a problem with sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual jokes, etc., when they don’t support the candidate. This is why #MeToo has no credibility.

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