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Yang takes hit for interview with ‘Islamophobe’ while skipping Muslim-sponsored forum

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2/17/2021 Michael Gartland

A Muslim political club is now questioning why mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang skipped out on its candidates’ forum last Wednesday — and why he instead spent part of the day schmoozing with a podcaster known for his inflammatory views on Islam and race.

Last Wednesday — the same day Yang passed on attending a virtual mayoral forum sponsored by several Muslim groups — he appeared on the Making Sense podcast, which is hosted by Sam Harris, whose remarks about Islam and race have elicited outrage in the past and continue to rankle Muslims.

Mohammad Khan, president of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, one of the groups that organized the event, told the Daily News that Team Yang begged out of the forum because he has COVID.

When informed about Yang’s appearance on Harris’ podcast, Khan said: “It conflicts with what they told us.”

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Andrew Yang © Barry Williams Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang (Barry Williams/)

More problematic for Khan, though, is who Yang chose to spend his time with.

“He’s one of the most renowned liberal Islamophobes out there,” Khan said. “It’s concerning that someone who’s seeking to hold public office in New York City would publicly associate with Sam Harris without challenging him on his Islamophobic views. Yang owes an explanation to New Yorkers on whether he agrees with the views Harris holds publicly.”

Yang tested positive for COVID on Feb. 2, and according to one campaign staffer, he felt the most extreme effects from the virus during the middle of last week.

Sasha Ajuha, Yang’s co-campaign manager, said that Yang “absolutely does not share Mr. Harris’ views on the Muslim community.”

“His appearance on Mr. Harris’ podcast is not in any way an approval of those opinions,” she added.

But Yang clearly has a friendly rapport with Harris.

On a previous podcast in May, Yang credited Harris with launching his “entire presidential run.”

“That’s barely an exaggeration,” Yang said. “There’s this period when everyone who was supporting our campaign was because they heard me on your podcast.”

That influence aside, Harris has drawn criticism from progressive and Muslim quarters for his views on race and Islam.

“Islam at the moment is the motherlode of bad ideas,” Harris said during a debate on radical Islam that aired on Bill Maher’s show in 2014. “We’re misled to think the fundamentalists are the fringe.”

In a 2017 interview with Charles Murray, the author of the controversial book, The Bell Curve, Harris opines on his belief on the bearing genetics has on intelligence, specifically when it comes to racial and ethnic groups.

“People don’t want to hear that a person’s intelligence is in large measure due to his or her genes, and there seems to be very little we can do environmentally to increase a person’s intelligence even in childhood. It’s not that the environment doesn’t matter, but genes appear to be 50 to 80 percent of the story. People don’t want to hear this. And they certainly don’t want to hear that average IQ differs across races and ethnic groups,” he said. “For better or worse, these are all facts.”

Mayoral candidates who did attend the mayoral forum sponsored last Wednesday include Maya Wiley, a former MSNBC commentator who also served as Mayor de Blasio’s legal counsel; Comptroller Scott Stringer; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams; former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan; former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Dianne Morales, a former non-profit exec.

That same day, Yang, during his time hanging out on Harris’ podcast, described his time there as a “refuge,” and before signing off, promised that once the coronavirus is less of a risk and if he wins his City Hall run, he and Harris would get together to “have the best cuisine in the world, and then we’ll have the after-dinner drink at Gracie Mansion to celebrate the renaissance of New York City.”

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