Andrew Yang Expands on Mental Illness Comments After Backlash

New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has expanded on his thoughts about people with mental illness following backlash to his comments at the third and final Democratic primary debate on Wednesday.

Yang, a former presidential candidate, was criticized for appearing to suggest that people with mental illness are not "us" during a discussion about homelessness in the city he hopes to lead.

He took to Twitter late on Wednesday to respond to a critical tweet from conservative commentator S.E. Cupp, who had shared a video of Yang's comments at the debate.

"OOF. There's surely a better way to present the idea of keeping NYers safe from violent criminals who also suffer from mental illness (and advocate for their treatment), without stigmatizing ALL mental illness sufferers as 'not us,'" Cupp wrote.

Yang responded in a retweet and appeared to try and clarify his remarks.

"Agree," Yang wrote. "Have been an advocate for mental health and will continue. Went to counseling as a young person. Full context here was mental illness is behind half of anti-Asian hate crimes. We need to get them compassionate comprehensive care - and not let them languish on our streets."

Agree. Have been an advocate for mental health and will continue. Went to counseling as a young person. Full context here was mental illness is behind half of anti-Asian hate crimes. We need to get them compassionate comprehensive care - and not let them languish on our streets. https://t.co/vYAIwKcpM1

— Andrew Yang🧢🗽🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) June 17, 2021

Yang may be referring to a New York Daily News report published on May 15 that said half of those arrested by New York police for committing hate crimes against Asian Americans had "a mental-health history with the NYPD."

The newspaper reported that of the 23 people arrested for anti-Asian hate crimes between January and the date of the article, 11 either told police they had been diagnosed with mental illness or had been hospitalized as a result of mental illness.

However, the Daily News noted that police are not permitted to review suspects' medical records so information about their mental health comes from suspects' statements or previous instances where the suspect was hospitalized "for being emotionally disturbed."

During Wednesday's debate, Yang said he wanted to double the number of psychiatric care beds in the city as part of a push to tackle homelessness, linking the problem to mental illness.

"We need to get them off of our streets and our subways into a better environment," Yang said.

"Yes, the mentally ill have rights, but you know who else has rights? We do. The people and families of the city," he said. "We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us."

Mayoral candidate Scott Stringer, who is New York City comptroller, responded to Yang's remarks at the debate.

"You can't say, 'Psych beds for all,'" Stringer said. "That is the greatest non-answer I've ever heard in all of our debates. Not one specific idea."

The Democratic mayoral primary is due to take place on Tuesday. While Yang initially appeared to be the frontrunner, the contest has been heated and he has slipped in recent polling.

Newsweek has asked the Yang campaign for comment.

Andrew Yang Speaks at a Manhattan Rally
New York City Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks at a rally at City Hall Park in Manhattan on May 24, 2021 in New York City. Yang caused backlash on Wednesday with comments about people with mental illness. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images