NEW YORK – What started as an internet jab on hopeful Mayor Andrew Yang for saying his favorite subway station was Times Square is now being condemned as racist after a stereotypical cartoon portrayed Yang as a tourist.
Yang made the comment in an interview with Showtime host Ziwe posted on Monday when asked about his favorite subway station.
“It’s my stop, which is Times Square,” said Yang.
During his campaign for the Mayor of New York City, the former Democratic presidential candidate continued to be harshly criticized by competitors and commentators for being an outsider and not a true New Yorker. This feeling was repeated again after Yang praised the tourist-trafficked station.
“Your favorite subway station is Times Square?” Ziwe interjected after Yang made the remark.
“It’s big. It’s cave-like. There are entertainers there. Sure, like what’s not to like?” Yang answered.
Like some of Yang’s other comments – for example when he admitted leaving town to spend time in New Paltz, Hudson Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic, or not voting in previous mayoral elections – many social media users attacked in New York yang to not be in contact with the city.
Comments directly dubbed Yang “Not a New Yorker” or compared him to Michael Scott on NBC’s “The Office,” who called Sbarro his “Favorite New York Pizza Place”.
Yang was born in Schenectady and grew up in Westchester County north of the city. He lives in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan.
The reaction was complemented by a cartoon from the New York Daily News in which Yang emerged from the subway station with his arms raised and a gift shop employee commented, “The tourists are back!”
However, the cartoon was quickly pushed back.
Evelyn Yang, the candidate’s wife, called the picture a “racial distortion” of her husband and noted the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city in recent months.
“This is disgusting and wrong,” added AAPI Victory Alliance, a progressive advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific islanders.
Even one of Yang’s competitors, Maya Wiley, denounced the cartoon. “@AndrewYang shouldn’t have to endure this. No New Yorker who’s Asian or Pacific Islander should,” she tweeted.
In a statement, Yang’s campaign spokeswoman Alyssa Cass said of the response to Yang’s comment on the subway station, including the cartoon: “It’s hard to say which offends you more – that his family has been around this subway for 25 years -Station is alive or that he’s an Asian American. “
A spokesman for Tribune Publishing, the parent company of the Daily News, did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Yang also held a press conference Tuesday to address both the cartoon and a recent subway attack on an Asian American. The man was pushed onto the tracks at a Queens subway station, but the train stopped before it hit him.
“It is wrong to call someone less New York than someone else because of their race, religion or other background,” Yang said.
Yang is one of eight major Democratic candidates and a front runner fighting for a first victory in June to become mayor of the city. The Democratic primary winner is expected to win the general election by hand.
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller