Throughout his mayoral campaign, Andrew Yang has faced questions about his authenticity as a New Yorker. Before he had even entered the race, his rivals criticized him for fleeing the Manhattan apartment he lives in with his family for his second home in New Paltz at the height of the pandemic. A day after announcing his candidacy, Yang drew more mockery for a tweet celebrating a local “bodega” that is actually a gourmet deli. Since then, the front-runner has generated a steady stream of gaffes with some raising questions about his knowledge of the city and others merely sparking social-media debate over his personal tastes.
The latest example falls into the latter category: During an appearance on Ziwe Fumudoh’s Showtime talk show, Ziwe, this week, the candidate professed his love for the Times Square subway stop.
“It’s my stop, so Times Square,” Yang answered, when asked to name his favorite station. “It’s big. It’s cavernous. There are entertainers there. What’s not to like?”
But on Monday, the discussion around Yang’s identity as a New Yorker evolved into a larger and far more serious controversy when New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Bramhall tweeted out a political cartoon depicting Yang exiting the Times Square subway station while an onlooker in a souvenir shop remarks, “The tourists are back!”
Critics said portraying Yang — who was born and raised in New York
State and has lived in the city for 25 years — as a tourist plays into offensive tropes that otherize Asian Americans and paint them as foreigners in the place of their birth.
“This is disgusting and wrong,” the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Alliance said in a tweet responding to the cartoon. “Every single day Asian Americans have to fight the notion that we are foreigners. We are here and we’re not going anywhere.”
Yang’s wife, Evelyn, weighed in as well, tweeting on Monday, “I can’t believe my eyes. To publish this racist disfiguration of @AndrewYang as a tourist, in NYC where I was born, where Andrew has lived for 25 years, where our boys were born, where 16% of us are Asian and anti-Asian hate is up 900%. #StopAsianHate.”
Andrew Yang addressed the controversy at a Tuesday-afternoon press conference held outside a Queens subway station where an Asian man had been pushed onto the tracks earlier this week, tying the attacks on himself to the increase in hate crimes across the city.
“Hate is tearing our city apart, and we need it to stop, we need it to end,” the candidate said. “Some of my opponents in this race have actually characterized some of us as being more New York than others — as if some of us belong here more than other people,” Yang said. “And I am here to say that that is wrong. None of us is more New York than anyone else. We all belong here.”
Evelyn Yang, who grew up in Queens, added, “Anytime someone implies that we are not New Yorkers, that we are not from here, that we don’t belong here, that we should go back to where we came from, it is exactly what it sounds like. It’s racism.”
As Politico reported, she said the cartoon also “disfigured” her husband’s face, depicting him with “overtly beady, slanted eyes.” Yang said she and her husband told the paper, “This is unacceptable. This is racist. This perpetuates the trope of the Asian foreigner.”
Mayoral candidate Maya Wiley denounced the cartoon as well, tweeting, “@AndrewYang should not have to endure this. No New Yorker who is Asian or Pacific Islander should. This is an offensive cartoon and we all have an obligation to call it out.”
Despite complaints and Yang’s request to remove the cartoon, which originally appeared online only, the Daily News published the drawing in its print edition.
Daily News editorial-page editor Josh Greenman released a statement defending the cartoon.
“Andrew Yang is a leading contender to be mayor of New York City, and as commentators, his opponents and The News editorial board have recently pointed out, he’s recently revealed there are major gaps in his knowledge of New York City politics and policy. Nor has he ever voted in a mayoral election,” Greenman said. “Bill Bramhall’s cartoon is a comment on that, period, end of story. This is not a racial stereotype or racist caricature.”
Greenman noted that the print version was modified after “people reacted badly” to the way Yang’s eyes were depicted. “Bill altered the drawing out of sensitivity to those concerns, without changing the concept of the cartoon, which he and we stand by,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Daily News tweeted out the Yang cartoon again, alongside old Bramhall cartoons featuring unflattering depictions of Andrew Cuomo, Matt Gaetz, and Michael Bloomberg. “Politics is a tough game in NYC,” the tweet read.