You might remember Andrew Yang as a tech bro who, despite not having any actual political experience, decided that running a tech startup was preparation enough to run for President of the United States in the 2020 election. After unsurprisingly failing at that endeavor, Yang has now turned his attention to a slightly smaller project, terrorizing the people of New York City—excuse me, I mean running for Mayor of New York City. He officially announced his mayoral campaign in mid-January and has received criticism for his weak history of involvement in New York City politics, especially in the wake of a flippant comment he made about the difficulties of caring for two kids in his family’s two-bedroom Manhattan apartment.
But that might not be the only criticism Yang’s mayoral campaign will face after Business Insider recently reported that a number of women who were aides, volunteers, and organizers on Yang’s presidential campaign said they felt “sidelined, ignored, or belittled” by the male managers on his staff. In one instance, a 21-year-old man with little former organizing experience got a promotion over Allison Groves, a woman who had been a political organizer for over a decade—and Groves wasn’t even given the opportunity to apply for the role. He then proceeded to repeatedly speak to her with a tone she saw as condescending, even literally telling her to “stop talking” in one instance. Despite having the most experience of any of the Yang campaign’s regional organizing directors, Groves was often relegated to making phone calls or being a chauffeur.
“I get it; it’s a scrappy campaign and there was not a lot of money,” Groves said. “But they had enough money to pay for all the guys to go to New York for a weekend and go to karaoke night while I was [working] alone.”
Multiple women who worked on Yang’s presidential campaign reported that men in leadership roles outnumbered women—according to one chart, four of the top five positions on the campaign were held by men. According to one former staffer, “the problem is, in general, this campaign is being run by bros who promote bros.”
One volunteer coordinator on Yang’s presidential campaign told Business Insider that she was fired after reporting vile sexist comments and harassment in a Yang Facebook group. The woman, who requested anonymity after previously being doxxed for previously discussing the misogyny in the Facebook group, found out she was fired on Twitter. “I was attacked by male Yang Gang publicly, called a liar, an attention whore, a control freak, etc.,” the woman wrote about her experience.
“It fucked up my self-worth to be constantly belittled and bullied,” another former campaign volunteer said.
Yang’s campaign manager Zach Graumann was named repeatedly as being intimidating and abrasive. In one incident, a volunteer overheard Graumann yelling at one of the campaign staffers, saying “I told you to do something and this is fucking insubordination. And if I have to tell you again, you’re fucking fired.” A different volunteer called him the most “inappropriate fucking manager I’d ever seen in my life.” Another source said that Graumann mocked the pronouns of Merlin Patterson, a non-binary web developer on the campaign who uses they/them pronouns, saying “explain to me why I should call Merlin they.”
“If I asked you to call me Twinkle Toes, would you call me Twinkle Toes?” Graumann asked, according to the source. Ah yes, the very fun combination of misogyny and transphobia—the perfect addition to any campaign trail!
Many staffers and volunteers on Yang’s presidential campaign said that it seemed like Yang was largely unaware of what was going on within his campaign, with several sources claiming that it often felt as though Graumann was really in charge. About Yang, one former campaign volunteer said: “You could tell that he just wasn’t emotionally there. He would sit in meetings on the phone, ignoring what was being said about his own campaign strategy. He was not present, but he was physically there.”
In a statement to Business Insider addressing the allegations of misogyny and hostility in his campaign, Yang wrote:
“We learned a lot from Yang 2020. Many of those responsible for the problematic culture are no longer with the campaign,” he said. “This time, we made sure that women, including women of color, were leading. Both our Campaign Manager and our Director of Outreach are women of color. We have also brought in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion experts to work on re-imagining the culture of our campaign.”