SACRAMENTO — A coalition of 23 community nonprofit organizations representing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on Nov. 27 released an open letter to MSNBC President Phil Griffin raising concerns about MSNBC’s lack of coverage of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and the potential damage to American democracy and racial equality; they urge MSNBC to provide fair coverage to all candidates.
Over 1,000 businesses, organizations and individuals expressed support for the letter, which reads as follows.
Dear Mr. Griffin,
Under your leadership, MSNBC has become one of America’s most influential cable news networks and attracts hundreds of millions of viewers. Congratulations on hosting the fifth Democratic Presidential Debate.
We are community nonprofit organizations that do not intend to support or oppose any particular candidate here, but would like to raise our concerns and register our displeasure about your network’s unfair treatment of Mr. Andrew Yang, the first Asian American man to run for president as a Democrat in our nation’s history.
Mr. Yang was one of the 10 presidential candidates that participated in the debate in Atlanta on Nov. 20, 2019. The American people expected each candidate would receive relatively equal amount of time to share their ideas on how to run our country as president, but MSNBC moderators did not let Mr. Yang speak for the first 32 minutes of the two-hour debate.
CNN reported Mr. Yang only received 6.8 minutes speaking time, barely over half of the time Sen. Warren spoke (13.4 minutes). In addition, it’s reported MSNBC left Mr. Yang out 15 times in its coverage of presidential candidates, while including others who polled lower.
We were troubled by these oversights and equally worried about their damage to MSNBC’s credibility, to the American democracy, and to this country’s racial equality. Following the debate, many media outlets reported that Andrew Yang was “ignored” or had a “lack of speaking time.”
Mr. Yang is one of the eight candidates that qualified for all five debates per DNC rules. RealClearPolitics’ national polling average shows Mr. Yang at 3%, ahead of three sitting senators, two House members, a governor and Mr. Mike Bloomberg. Depriving Mr. Yang of a fair share of airtime during the debate is depriving the American people of the fair opportunity to learn about a qualified candidate, and thus compromising our democracy.
Furthermore, as we are embracing diversity and inclusion, MSNBC’s lack of coverage of Mr. Yang may deepen this country’s racial inequality, and also play right into the books of those who attack media as “Fake News.”
There are over 22 million Asian Americans in the U.S., which is the fastest-growing ethnic group in our country; 51% of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher. It’s reported 43% of MSNBC’s audience has a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The run for president by three Asian Americans, Mr. Andrew Yang, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, has elevated Asian Americans’ participation in politics and civic affairs to a historical new height. Overlooking Mr. Yang’s candidacy in reporting the 2020 presidential election will lead to millions of Americans being uninformed and adversely impact our democracy.
We request that MSNBC:
Give all the presidential candidates fair coverage, and
Investigate the root causes of the incidents listed above about Andrew Yang and take corrective actions accordingly.
Thank you for your consideration … We are looking forward to seeing MSNBC’s fair, transparent coverage of the 2020 elections and other important issues, and ongoing dialogue to ensure public trust of media and other institutions.
The following organizations signed the letter:
80-20 National Asian American PAC
Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA)
Asian American Democratic Club (AADC)
United Chinese Americans (UCA)
Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC)
National Council of Chinese Americans (NCCA)
APAPA New York Chapter
APAPA Ohio State Chapter
APAPA Peninsula Chapter
APAPA Southern California Region
Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition Of Alaska
Atlanta Chinese IT Association
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York
China Institute in North America
Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
Houston Chinese Alliance
Minnesota Chinese World
Monterey Bay Chinese Association
Ohio Chinese American Association
San Diego Asian Americans For Equality Foundation
UCA Illinois Chapter
UCA Washington Chapter
Westlake Chinese Culture Association
With the Harris’ decision this week to drop out of the race, the field of candidates is less diverse.
The California junior senator, whose mother and father immigrated to the U.S. from India and Jamaica, respectively, would have been the first African American woman and first Asian American president.
Previously district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California, she is the first South Asian American and second African American woman to serve in the Senate and can run for a second term in 2022, unless she becomes the running mate of the Democratic nominee or takes a position in a new Democratic administration.
Yang, the American-born son of immigrants from Taiwan, and Gabbard, the first Samoan American and first practicing Hindu member of Congress, are still in the running, but neither is considered a top-tier candidate.
Other non-white candidates are New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
Currently, the candidates who have qualified for the December debate are all white: former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, billionaire Tom Steyer, and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay president. (Harris qualified before she withdrew.)
Some liberal pundits have blamed the late entry of Steyer and another white, male billionaire, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for hastening Harris’ departure due to lack of funds.
“The 2020 election will have more billionaires than black people,” Booker said in an interview with MSNBC.
Depending on who wins the nomination, the possibility of electing the first female president remains.