Andrew Yang On ‘Freedom Dividend’ Controversy: ‘It Just Speaks To How Messed Up Our System Is’

Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang speaks during the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the SNHU Arena on September 7, 2019 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang made an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday to speak with Jake Tapper. During the interview, Tapper brought up the controversy around his “Freedom Dividend” giveaway that he announced at Thursday’s debate, which involves giving 10 American families $1,000 per month. Yang assured Tapper that his team of lawyers signed off on it and also said that no one would have thought twice if he spent the money on a media company or consultants.

“No one would blink an eye,” he said, per Politico. “But if we give the money directly to the American people, somehow that’s problematic. So it just speaks how [sic] messed up our system is where giving money directly to Americans actually raises eyebrows.”

Per The Inquisitr, his comments echo the ones he made to CBS’ Ed O’Keefe after the debate when he highlighted that spending millions to buy your way onto the election stage — a reference to billionaire Tom Steyer — is viewed as appropriate, but putting money into the hands of everyday Americans is not.

Yang’s giveaway announcement mirrors his campaign’s signature proposal of a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 for every American over the age of 18. It’s also a novel way to connect to potential supporters and get them in front of his policy page, as each person enrolling in the giveaway must provide their email and personal information. Given that Yang has received the least amount of speaking time at each of the debates thus far, many saw the move as a way around the lack of attention he has received from media outlets.

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During his talk with Tapper, Yang also addressed Saturday Night Live cast member Shane Gillis, who is under fire for a past recording of him making racial slurs about Asians, LGBT people, and women. Gillis responded to the criticism by suggesting that his comedy “pushes boundaries,” and while Yang admitted he believes that anti-Asian racial epithets aren’t taken as seriously as the same against other groups, he believes that Gillis should keep his job.

“But at the same time, bigger picture, I believe that our country has become excessively punitive and vindictive about remarks that people find offensive or racist and that we need to try and move beyond that if we can.”

RealClearPolitics reports that Yang is currently in sixth place with 3 percent support. It remains to be seen if his Freedom Dividend announcement at the debate will successfully gain him polling support.