An offhand remark from Andrew Yang at Wednesday night's NYC mayoral debate drew swift backlash.
Yang was talking about homelessness and mental illness.
"Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do."
Democratic New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang drew swift condemnation from critics over what they described as an insensitive remark at Wednesday night's final televised debate.
Yang, who has slipped from the frontrunner status he enjoyed for months to a more fluid spot within the primary campaign's top four, was addressing mental illness and homelessness.
"Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do: the people and families of the city," Yang 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."
Rival campaigns quickly pounced on the comment, but backlash grew more broadly on social media once video of the remark began to circulate.
Earlier in his answer, Yang said the city needs to take a different approach given the spike in violent crime and several seemingly random attacks on the subways.
"I'm so glad we're talking about this. Half of the attacks on Asian New Yorkers have been by the mentally ill. They're walking around, they're mentally ill, they see someone who's different, and then they lash out. So this is such a crucial issue to return a sense of safety to our city," he said.
Yang said the city needs to offer "more psych beds" and find a way to involuntarily commit those who are acting violently or are unresponsive, a practice that has been rolled back in the decades since major psychiatric institutions began to close across the country.
Other candidates in the race have a similar position to Yang's and have called for more police in the subway.
Fellow candidate Scott Stringer replied to Yang's comments by saying, "You can't say, 'Psych beds for all' ... That is the greatest non-answer I've ever heard in all of our debates."
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