Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang defended his proposed proto-universal basic income scheme Sunday, rejecting suggestions that a campaign giving random families thousands of dollars was illegal.
During the third Democratic debate Thursday, Yang announced that he would give 10 random families $120,000 as a pilot for his keystone universal basic income proposal. The Yang campaign said the money would come from campaign funds, a remark that raised eyebrows about its legality.
“A lottery to give money to potential supporters may violate law and is a slippery slope, but I suspect he could argue it’s a novel way to boost his fundraising. That doesn’t sound as uplifting as a pilot program for his ‘Freedom Dividend‘ but that’s what it looks like,” tweeted former Federal Election Commission General Counsel Larry Nobel.
Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,“ Yang assured Tapper that his “army of lawyers” signed off on the plan and said he would not gain the same scrutiny if he gave money to a media company or consultants.
“No one would blink an eye,” Yang said. “But if we give the money directly to the American people, somehow that’s problematic. So it just speaks how messed up our system is where giving money directly to Americans actually raises eyebrows.”
Yang also doubled down on his calls to forgive new “Saturday Night Live“ cast member Shane Gillis, who has come under fire for a resurfaced recording of him making racist comments about Asians. In a video recorded in 2018, Gillis used slurs against Asians and derided Chinese culture in a bit he later dismissed as comedy that “pushes boundaries.” He also made derisive remarks against LGBT people and women.
Yang mentioned Sunday that he has been called racist slurs, but said Gillis’ remarks should be viewed in a different light because they were presented as comedy.
“I do think anti-Asian racial epithets are not taken as seriously as slurs against other groups,” Yang said. “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.”
Yang has repeatedly used stereotypical tropes of Asians on the campaign, declaring during Thursday’s debate: “Now, I am Asian, so, I know a lot of doctors.” He defended his rhetoric Sunday saying that “Americans are very smart” and can see past the stereotypes and get to his message.
“If anything, by poking fun at it, I’m making Americans reflect a little bit more on them,” Yang said.