The New York Times published what has been called a "bizarre" "hit piece" on Andrew Yang based on the experiences of some of his former employees, including one who complained that the businessman "pressured" them into doing karaoke.
Yang, who recently laid off campaign staff after having a poor showing in Monday's Iowa caucuses, is the subject of a new report from the Times, which argued that "scrutiny of his life" before "the novelty" of his presidential bid "got lost" in the 2020 coverage.
"The Andrew Yang on the presidential debate stage, the one who spoke about the need for more women in leadership and the lack of racial diversity among top-tier Democratic candidates, was the same person they’d once worked for. But for some of his former employees, it seemed almost impossible to believe how far he’d come..." the report began.
The Times goes into detail about a 2015 essay Yang read about the market value of the female-directed horror film "The Babadook" and how women should be given more opportunity in the industry, but when he spoke to his employees about it, female staffers "exchanged glances" and some "felt as if Mr. Yang were discovering sexism for the first time and explaining it to them."
"In his life before politics, they said they saw in Mr. Yang a man who was smart, had good ideas, was a persuasive speaker and was occasionally inspiring. But he sometimes stumbled in his dealings with gender and race, expressing what the former employees said were antiquated and unnerving views for a presidential candidate seeking the nomination from a Democratic Party that has been moving to the left," the Times reported.
Former employees alleged that there was a "collective shrug" about previous reports on how Yang "treated women who worked for him" and that his "cavalier use of racial stereotypes about Asian-Americans" and a "lack of attention of his record as a chief executive" have "gnawed" at staffers who claim they "watched their boss similary fumble delicate topics and conversations for years."
Four employees who worked with Yang at the test-prep company he ran in 2006 alleged he was "socially awkward and prone to overstepping boundaries."
"They variously recounted moments when he burst out laughing when someone discussed a tragic event or when he pressured employees to participate at company karaoke outings," the Times reported, one describing as him doing "the goofy teacher role."
After pointing to Yang's shortcomings at the nonprofit Venture for America, the Times also pointed to "several" former employees who "questioned" his judgment.
"For example, multiple employees recalled a period in 2016 when he had the nonprofit pay for him, his family and their nanny to stay at an Airbnb in the Bay Area for about 10 weeks on the assumption that he would procure significant new sources of funding for Venture for America. Mr. Yang, they said, failed to generate anywhere close to the $500,000 he had hoped to solicit," the report said, which Yang later confirmed.
Former employees also alleged that there was a "bro-culture problem" under Yang's watch and how his "boorish behavior sometimes made him look and sound more like a fraternity brother than a chief executive." The Times included his nicknames for his pectorals, which are "Lex" and "Rex," and the gender-based discrimination and harassment claims that have surfaced from Yang campaign volunteers as well as the claim made last year by Kimberly Watkins that she was fired by Yang over fears her productivity would weaken because she got married as examples. Former employees also told the Times that Yang how "awkward and sometimes aloof" he is on race.
Critics knocked the Times for running its piece on Yang.
"This hit piece on Andrew Yang in the Times is completely bizarre. Much of it amounts to people disliking his personality," New York Magazine business columnist Josh Barro reacted, highlighting an excerpt about the karaoke incident. "This has been an undercurrent in the Yang coverage -- that his bro-y personality is an offense for which he must apologize. Who cares that he nicknamed his pecs?"
"I honestly think Yang should propose to institutionalize pressure campaigns to increase karaoke participation as part of his platform," writer Jonathan Chait joked.
"There’s not much meat on this dark-history-of-Andrew-Yang story, but it’s true that if he becomes the nominee, 'pressured employees to participate at company karaoke outings; would make for devastating attack ads," BuzzFeed News opinion editor Tom Gara reacted.
Even one of the Times' own reporters seemed to dismiss the significance of the piece.
"Andrew Yang named his pectoral muscles Lex and Rex. He has a sense of humor. He fumbled delicate topics. (Who hasn't?) I believe his popularity is due to one thing: he talks about jobs. People want good jobs, more than social safety nets," Times reporter Farah Stockman tweeted.
The Yang campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News for comment.
Yang will have a podium at Friday night's Democratic debate, but his campaign now faces an uncertain future. According to the Real Clear Politics average, the tech businessman is polling seventh in New Hampshire ahead of the primary next week.