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Andrew Yang and Shane Gillis Remain Mum on Planned Meeting

October 8, 2019, 2:31 PM UTC

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has shown patience in the wake of comedian Shane Gillis’ insults directed at him and Asian Americans, a representative of a prominent political advocacy group says. Meanwhile, fans of Gillis remained supportive as his podcast returned to the Internet airwaves.

Gillis is the personality hired—then fired—by NBC’s Saturday Night Live last month after video surfaced of him saying “Chinatown’s f–king nuts” and “Let the f–king ch-nks live there” on his Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast. Gillis also insulted Yang directly in another podcast that aired in May, referring to the Democratic candidate as a “Jew ch–k.”

Yang repeated a call to forgive Gillis last week, and the representative for the Asian American Pacific Islander Victory Fund, an organization aimed at getting voters to the polls, told Fortune that this can be a teaching moment. Yang has said he does not believe Gillis’ comments warranted his firing.

“Number one, this is sort of like a call in this vitriolic time to rise above and make this a teaching moment,” Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Fund, told Fortune. “He’s got two young children. He’s maybe trying to teach his children this is how adults behave.”

Yang spoke at the organization’s presidential forum last month in Orange County, Calif., Nikore said.

“He actually spoke about growing up—and all the racial taunts and bullying he had to face growing up,” Nikore said. 

“He spoke from a very deep place and a very personal place about how, quite frankly, most [Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders] and probably other people of color have had similar experiences. So I think more than anything it showed not only was he trying to be a better person, but frankly, I think it’s rather presidential,” Nikore continued.

On September 14th, Yang said via Twitter, “Shane – I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots. But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like.”

Two days later, the candidate said Gillis had communicated with him about having a conversation.

“Shane Gillis reached out,” Yang tweeted. “Looks like we will be sitting down together soon.”

But as of Friday, it did not appear that conversation had taken place—or at least, no one was talking publicly about it. In repeated communications, Yang chief of staff Matt Shinners either said he had no information about the conversation or did not respond to requests for details.

“We have no comment on that at this time,” Randy Jones, Yang’s national political director, told Fortune.

Gillis did not respond to requests for comment. But the comedian did address his SNL comments with his cohost, Matt McCusker, during a late September edition of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast.

During the podcast, Gillis referred to the statement he posted on Twitter on September 16th: “Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction.”

On the podcast, Gillis suggested that if he issued an apology, it would have escalated matters even more. 

“I know it’s a waste of time,” Gillis said. 

The comedian said his comments were taken out of context: “What I was doing was pointing out how dumb somebody would have to be to segregate a neighborhood.”

Gillis said that when SNL informed him he was being fired, he laughed. He said he has tried to take the whole situation in stride.

“Everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Gillis said. “I don’t think they’re going to hire anybody like me anytime soon.”

Podcast fans tweeted their appreciation for Gillis and his podcast partner.

“Yayyyy,” responded @Permabaked at the posting of the podcast.

“Welcome back bboiz!” posted @LizSetsFire.

Posted @pope_mccarthy, “I have never been more excited for a podcast!”

Yang, in the meantime, told The Hill in an interview that firing Gillis amounts to “cancel culture.” The candidate discussed his actions when he learned of Gillis’ comments.

“I thought, ‘Who the heck is this guy,’ went and found some of his comedy and I watched some of it with my wife,” Yang said. “I concluded that I did not think he was an evil person and that he was a still forming comedian that had made some terrible and offensive jokes, and to me that did not rise to a level where he should lose his job.”

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