Andrew Yang says mic was cut during Democratic debate, but NBC denies muting him

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang could hardly get a word in during Thursday’s 2020 primary debate — and he blames the microphones in part for cutting him off.

“There were also a few times, FYI, where I just started talking, being like, ‘Hey I’d like to add something there,’ and my mic was not on,” Yang said in remarks following the debate. “It’s not like if you start talking it all of a sudden takes over the convo. It’s like I was talking and nothing was happening.”

NBC News rejected Yang’s suggestion that his microphone was shut off.

“At no point during the debate was any candidate’s microphone turned off or muted,” an NBC News spokesman wrote in an email to McClatchy.

Yang, a tech entrepreneur and advocate for a universal basic income, got the least speaking time during the second night of the two June primary debates, which were hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, according to a New York Times analysis.

He spoke for less than three minutes, the analysis found.

“The moderators have a fair amount of power and authority. Someone in production is turning on a mic or not,” Yang said. “I quite literally felt somewhat … mechanically restricted.”

Among the nine other candidates at the second debate were the frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who spoke for more than 13 minutes and nearly 11 minutes respectively.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., got the second-most airtime at around 12 minutes — in part thanks to a tense, heated exchange about civil rights and busing with Biden.

“I don’t hate the entire media marginalization of Andrew Yang narrative that will now take hold,” Yang said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world to happen to us.”

By Friday, the hashtag “LetYangSpeak” was taking off on Twitter.

Yang said he wished he could have interjected during conversations on climate change, education and other issues.

Other campaigns have also suggested debate producers and moderators may be tipping the scales.

A message from the Twitter account of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said after she appeared in Wednesday’s debate that “it’s clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren.”

“They’re giving her more time than all the other candidates combined,” said the tweet, which was apparently written by the candidate’s sister, Vrindavan Gabbard. “They aren’t giving any time to Tulsi at all.”

Yang said in a Tweet on Friday morning that he “will do better” in July.

This story has been updated with a statement from NBC.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.