MIAMI — Democratic presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang claimed that his microphone during the Democratic debate on June 27 was turned off at times.
“A few times…where I just started talking, being like, ‘Hey, I’d like to add something there,’ and my mic was like, not on,” Yang said, adding that “I was talking and like, nothing was happening.”
He tweeted the following day, “I feel bad for those who tuned in to see and support me that I didn’t get more airtime. Will do better (my mic being off unless called on didn’t help) and glad to have another opportunity in July (and afterwards)!”
Supporters of Yang, often referred to as the “Yang Gang,” took to social media with the hashtag “#LetYangSpeak,” which became one of the biggest trends on Twitter on June 28.
“The mic issue is not funny and yes, it did happen,” fellow Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson tweeted. “I tried a couple of times to jump in and my mic was not on. Particularly wanted in on the subject of race.”
Yang said that “there were at least a few times where I tried” to contribute to discussions during the debate, “where I quite literally felt somewhat like, sort of mechanically restricted.”
NBC News denied any mics were tampered with in response to Yang’s claim. In a statement, it said, “At no point during the debate was any candidate’s microphone turned off or muted.”
According to the New York Times, Yang received the least amount of speaking time of all 20 participants in both debates, clocking in at two minutes and 58 seconds.
When he did snag some airtime, Yang promoted what his campaign has become best known for: his Universal Basic Income policy. This “Freedom Dividend,” as the Yang campaign calls it, proposes to give each American adult $1,000 a month, costing an estimated $3.2 trillion a year. Despite his limited speaking time, Yang said he gained 50,000 more followers on his Twitter account after the debate.
Williamson received the third-least airtime with four minutes and 58 seconds.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden topped the field with 13 minutes and 19 seconds of speaking time, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris, with 12 minutes and 16 seconds.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said to Biden, though she described his record of working with Democratic segregationist senators on non-race issues as “hurtful.”
Biden called Harris’ criticism “a complete mischaracterization of my record.” He declared, “I ran because of civil rights,” and later accused the Trump administration of embracing racism.
The debate marked an abrupt turning point in a Democratic primary in which candidates have largely tiptoed around each other, focusing instead on their shared desire to beat Donald Trump. But the debate revealed just how deep the fissures are within the Democratic Party eight months before primary voting begins.
The June 27 debate, like the one a night earlier, gave millions of Americans their first peek inside the Democrats’ unruly 2020 season.
The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates—according to early polls, at least. Those are Biden, Sanders, Pete Buttigieg of Indiana, and Harris. Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the fifth—she debated on June 26, along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Inslee was largely sidelined as moderators returned again and again to better-known candidates, including Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
Inslee, positioned near the right end of the stage, repeatedly raised his hand and pointed his index finger to try to get called on, only to be passed over. Inslee got the least amount of speaking time on June 26— about five minutes, according to The New York Times.
There are so many candidates lining up to take on Trump that they do not all fit on one debate stage, or even two. Twenty Democrats debated on national television in the last week of June in two waves of 10, while a handful more were left out altogether.
The level of diversity on display was unprecedented for a major political party in the United States. The field features women, Blacks, Asian Americans, and two men under 40, one of them openly gay.
The showdown played out in Florida, a general election battleground that could well determine whether Trump wins a second term next year.