Andrew Yang Boycotting MSNBC Over Debate Speaking Time

Andrew Yang is upset about the fact that he's largely being ignored at the Democratic debates. He's right, but that's at least partly his fault.

Andrew Yang isn’t very happy with the way he was treated in last week’s debate on MSNBC, and he isn’t being quiet about it:

Andrew Yang thinks MSNBC has it out for him.

The entrepreneur-turned-presidential candidate has spent the better part of a week accusing the network of “systematic bias” against his campaign after he had the least amount of speaking time at last week’s debate. And he kept up the drumbeat in an interview with POLITICO on Monday.

MSNBC is trying to suppress and minimize my campaign because there are certain other candidates that they might favor,” Yang said, declining to elaborate.

On Saturday, Yang campaign aides had a conference call with network officials to address his complaints about his speaking time at the debate and its overall coverage of him, according to sources with knowledge of the call. Yang spoke for just under seven minutes during the debate, the least of all 10 candidates, according to The Washington Post, which hosted the event with MSNBC.

Yang is in sixth place nationally in the primary, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. He’s ahead of Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who all spoke more than Yang.


A network source said Saturday’s call was initiated by the network and that MSNBC offered a broad apology to the campaign while reiterating he has a standing invitation to come on shows.

MSNBC officials would not comment on the record about the call. Yang disputed the claims in a tweet saying, “MSNBC did NOT apologize to the campaign and did not initiate the call. Don’t let them spin it otherwise.”

Yang’s complaints go beyond debate speaking time. His supporters have been calling out MSNBC for months for not including Yang in debate and fundraising graphics shown on air. In September, the network referred to him in a chyron as “John Yang;” the show apologized on air and Twitter.

“I’ve been very patient. I think most people know that I’m not like a highly reactive guy,” Yang said in the interview. “You have to call it like you see it. 

On Twitter over the weekend, Yang said he was “asked to appear on MSNBC this weekend,” but declined. He said he won’t go on the network unless it apologizes publicly and agrees to bring his campaign’s surrogates on air more often.

MSNBC has not commented publicly about Yang’s complaints or demands.

At least looking at the raw numbers, Yang arguably has a point. Taking into account that last week’s debate lasted roughly two hours, or 120 minutes, one would expect that equal time would mean that each of the ten candidates would receive roughly twelve minutes each. The reality, though it seems obvious that the actual result is going to be different and that it’s likely that the top candidates would end up getting the most time. Based on this chart from CNN, that’s exactly what happened:

As the chart shows, the largest amount of speaking time went to Elizabeth Warren, followed by Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden, all of whom received more than the average amount of speaking time you’d expect over the course of the two-hour debate. These three candidates are followed by Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom received ten or more minutes of total speaking candidates. The remaining candidates all received less than ten minutes of total time, with Yang at the bottom of the list at six minutes, 43 seconds, which amounts to just about half the amount of time that Elizabeth Warren received.

What pops out about this list is that, by and large, the list of the candidates with the most speaking time coincides with the candidates at the top of the polls at both the national and state levels and the candidates who are at the top of the list when it comes to fundraising. The exceptions to this rule are Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, but that may be due to the fact that both of these candidates have demonstrated in the past that they have no problem with interjecting themselves into an exchange going on between other candidates.

Yang, on the other hand, has generally been more laid back, waiting for the questions to come to him. This generally runs counter to how a candidate for office ought to be acting in these multi-candidate debates if they want to get their message out, but Yang is a business executive not a politician so it’s perhaps understandable that this does not come naturally to him. This is most likely probably at least part of the explanation for why Yang generally doesn’t get the same amount of speaking time as other candidates.

In another examination of debate speaking time that includes all five of the Democratic debates, Business Insider compares the actual amount of time that candidates have received compared to what would be expected given their position in the polls:

Several of the candidates on this list, such as Beto O’Rourke and John Hickenlooper, have dropped out of the race, but for the most part the list is interesting to the extent that it shows the amount of time candidates have gotten and the amount of time they would be expected to get if the time-division were “fairly” divided based on polling levels. As with the previous chart, this study does seem to confirm that Yang has gotten far less time than might be expected given his polling position, but that is likely due to the factors I cited above. What is probably more surprising is the fact that former Vice-President Biden is also in a deficit, but that may be because Biden’s lead in the polls has been so large that the fact that he has had slightly more speaking time over the course of five debates (81.6 minutes) than Elizabeth Warren (81 minutes) is offset by the fact that he has been far enough ahead in the polls that he “should” have gotten more time.

So, yes, it does appear that Andrew Yang does have a point that he’s gotten less speaking time at not only last week’s debate but at every debate that has been held since June. As I noted, though, there are several reasons why this might be the case ranging from his relative position in the polls to the fact that he isn’t being as assertive as candidates like Booker and Klobuchar. This doesn’t mean, though, that MSNBC or any of the other networks that have sponsored debates to date have been biased against him. While the person moderating a debate should strive to see that each candidate gets a chance to speak, they are under no obligation to seek out specific candidates for a reaction if they aren’t asserting themselves. If Yang wants more attention in future debates, assuming he is included in them, he needs to be more assertive about getting his voice heard.

The final point, of course, is that there’s only so much time available during a debate with ten candidates. Like it or not, that means that the candidates who are leading the field and making the headlines, or who are aggressive about putting themselves out there are going to get more coverage than those, like Yang, who don’t. Finally, while he seems like a nice, interesting, and smart guy who would arguably make a good fit for a Cabinet position in a Democratic administration, as Secretary of Commerce for example, the fact of the matter is that he is not going to be the Democratic nominee. For that reason alone, it’s not surprising that he’s not receiving as much attention as those who actually have a chance of winning.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    Does he want a little cheese with that whine?

  2. EddieInCA says:

    Andrew Yang is a tool. Yet another example of an entitled Gen Xer. He will never be president, and, given his recent behavior, is more interested in being a martyr than a Cabinet Member.

    Additionally, he has one policy position that differentiates him from the others, but that particular position hasn’t caught fire. What else does he offer Democrats.

    He can f**k off.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    As I’ve said many times, it doesn’t matter what positions or personality a candidate has, the very first test is “Do they have what it takes to win the primary?”

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Taking into account that last week’s debate lasted roughly two hours, or 120 minutes, one would expect that equal time would mean that each of the ten candidates would receive roughly twelve minutes each.

    No Doug, you aren’t accounting for the time questioners take up.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As for Andrew Yang, “Pobrecito…”

  6. @OzarkHillbilly:

    Fair enough. So let’s cut it down to somewhere around ten minutes per candidate if the available time were divided equally. Yang is still pretty far down the pack.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I added up all their times just because I felt like it: 108:28. So actually closer to 11 minutes each would be even time. Yeah, Yang is far down from his “fair share” but like you said, he needs to take it instead of waiting for someone to give it to him.

    I am actually surprised at the fact that all the “serious” candidates are at or above that mark. (I’m counting Klobuchar too, missing it by 13 seconds is close enough for me)

  8. Pylon says:

    A lot of the time allocation likely also has to do with who gets aimed at by other candidates. If a bunch take shots at Warren’s policies in their statements, she is going to be asked about it.

  9. Jen says:

    @EddieInCA: He’s certainly irksome, but I’ve never seen the phrase “entitled Gen Xer.”

    Gen X is pretty much ignored. We’re far from entitled. Deeply resigned to permanent obscurity is more like it.

  10. Kathy says:

    Completely off-topic, but I’ve always wondered how Groucho Marx would have done at a presidential debate 🙂

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: The king of comebacks would hands down win.

  12. Kathy says:


    His really big advantage is that in a two hour debate, he can talk for 140 minutes.

  13. EddieInCA says:


    WTF has Andrew Yang ever done to think he should be President of the United States? Seriously.

    F**k him. I’m tired of dilettantes running for President. I was tired of it during the GOP process, and I’m tired of it during the Dems process. Yang isn’t going to be the nominee. To pretend otherwise is delusional. If you’re supporting Yang at this time, you’re giving oxygen to a dead man. You’re wasting time and resources that could be used towards a candidate that can win. Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, maybe Harris and Booker have a chance. The rest are dead man/woman walking.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: HA!

    ETA: tho I have to wonder if he would walk onto a debate stage that would have him.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    This is like my long term boycott of Rolls Royce. I don’t think they’ve noticed yet.

  16. Jen says:

    @EddieInCA: I have no use for Yang. Was simply objecting to your referencing Gen X as entitled.

  17. Kit says:

    Why is it that the also-rans seem so incapable of adapting to the situation on the ground? They went in with a plan, just like everyone else, but at some point the writing is on the wall. Are they trying to tell us that they are blind? That they are stubborn in the face of reality today, and will remain so if elected? React, damn it, or have the good sense to get out of the way.

  18. EddieInCA says:


    I’m sorry if it came out as a slam against all GenX. But Yang definitely has a sense of entitlement and he is GenX. So….

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kit: “But it’s not my fault.”

  20. Tyrell says:

    So he is joining the other millions who are boycotting MSNBC .

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    MSNBC is the highest rated news network among people with more than five years to live.

  22. Moosebreath says:


    I think Groucho would leave in a huff. Or maybe an hour and a huff.

  23. de stijl says:


    They are implying that we, the voters, are blind, are foolishly blind, by not recognizing their brilliance and it is our fault that they didn’t inspire us.

    I have no problem with Yang. Marginal candidates serve a good, long term health for the system. Universal income was a trial balloon that failed to launch.

    Petty is not a winning formula unless your name is Trump.

  24. Mister Bluster says:

    Groucho Marx The Laws of my Administration
    This Country’s taxes must be fixed and I know what to do with it.
    If you think you’re paying too much now just wait till I get through with it!

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..Universal income was a trial balloon that failed to launch.

    Not the first time.

    In 1971, President Richard Nixon proposed a negative income tax as the centerpiece of his welfare reform program, but the NIT was not approved by Congress; however, Congress did pass a bill establishing Supplemental Security Income (SSI), providing a guaranteed income for elderly and disabled persons.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    …an entitled Gen Xer.

    Compared to the boomers? Now that’s funny…

  27. Stormy Dragon says:


    WTF has Andrew Yang ever done to think he should be President of the United States? Seriously.

    He started several successful companies, which he eventually sold becoming a self-made millionaire, before eventually moving from business to the non-profit sector.

    That is, he’s the real-life version of the guy Trump desperately wants everyone to think he is.

  28. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Why would I want a business person to be President?

    I was really good at my job. I am in no way qualified. I would be a terrible President. How is Yang different? Better?

    I know when I’m underqualified, inept, and unsuited.

    In fact, best decision I ever made. I was more useful as a really pretty good at his job as technical consultant than as a decent, not totally horrible corporate middle manager, but in no way exceptional.

    I was way better at doing what I was good at rather than managing a crew to do that.

    Plus, the money was way better.

    Give me a process problem and I will attack it. Give me a people problem and I will schedule a load of unproductive meetings that solve nothing. Give me a budget problem and I’m paralyzed. Do not ask me to fire someone.

    Knowing your role and skills is important.

  29. EddieInCA says:

    @de stijl: @Stormy Dragon:

    Stormy Dragon says:
    Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 17:46


    WTF has Andrew Yang ever done to think he should be President of the United States? Seriously.

    He started several successful companies, which he eventually sold becoming a self-made millionaire, before eventually moving from business to the non-profit sector.

    de stijl says:
    Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 19:03

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Why would I want a business person to be President?

    I was really good at my job. I am in no way qualified. I would be a terrible President. How is Yang different? Better?

    Same. I had dinner with Michael Reynolds a while ago. Actually, we had a little food between whiskeys, but whatever. One of the things I told him was “I’m damn good at my job. But I’d suck as a politician.” Like de stijl, I know my limitations. I’m responsible for spending alot of studio money responsibly. I’m good at it. Ask me to create a schedule and budget for a film or TV series, I’ll knock it out of the park. Ask me to manage 100-300 people daily during a sixth month shooting schedule, I’ll crush it. Ask me to assess problems on productions I’m not even involved in, I will point out the issues on the show.

    However, if you ask me to be a Studio Exec, and deal with the ins and outs of studio politics on a daily basis, I’d get fired within a week. Ask me to control the development of various studio projects, I’d get fired. in less time than a week. Ask me to oversee a Writer’s Room, I’d last less than a day.

    Just because you’re good at one thing doens’t mean you’re good enough at others, or should be.

    There are more accomplished people than Andrew Yang here on the Warner Bros lot daily, yet they’re not running for President. They’re smarter, more successful, and have created more jobs and businesses than Andrew Yang. So why does he think he can or should be President?

    His behavior vis-a-vis MSNBC isn’t helping his case.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @EddieInCA: Somebody made me a foreman once. I had the temerity to expect them to follow through on their promises of support. In the end I became just another journeyman carpenter and they didn’t have anyone making unreasonable demands for what he actually needed to fulfill his designated task.

    We were both much happier.

  31. de stijl says:

    @de stijl: @EddieInCA: @OzarkHillbilly:

    An IT consultant, a Hollywood executive, and a construction foreman walk into a bar…

  32. EddieInCA says:

    @de stijl:

    @de stijl: @EddieInCA: @OzarkHillbilly:

    An IT consultant, a Hollywood executive, and a construction foreman walk into a bar…

    I’d be a lousy producer if you didn’t end up paying. 🙂

  33. de stijl says:

    I worked for corporation x for 15 years, consulted for 5 years, got coaxed back for a cool ass job. Cool ass job was project related so it died. Two years later I was managing the team of engineers that pushed out software updates to desktops. 80k desktops so it was super stressful if we effed it up. 80% was contingency planning; 20% was roll-out. We’re pushing you to version up from version, embrace the awesomeness!

    Worst job ever. I spent all of my time on the phone reassuring people we could back out if the update cratered them.

    Going back to consultancy was literally the best life choice I ever made. I actually got to do fun stuff again and create things. By my own hand.

    And the money was way better.

  34. de stijl says:


    You Hollywood types! Like we could be bought off with drinks!

    Btw, the appropriate response was “Ouch! Ow! Mother of flipping pearl, that effing hurt!”

    We literally walked into a bar.

  35. EddieInCA says:

    @de stijl:

    I’m not that smart.

  36. de stijl says:


    I effed up. Producer, not executive. I apologize.

    Since you are here, please clear something up.

    What is the distinction between the various job titles for producers. Executive Producer vs Producer vs whatever.

    Totally opaque distinctions to the viewing public.

    For example, I adore Mr. Robot. Both Malek and Slater have credited Producer titles. I assume that means that they get a bigger participation cut and not additional say in anything. Is that any where near correct?

  37. EddieInCA says:

    @de stijl:

    Short answer, “It depends”.

    Some Producer titles are strictly a way to get some people additional cash, and they have very little to do with actually producing the show or movie.

    Other Producer titles are actually for people involved in the production of the show.

    Yet others are for people who are with the company that is producing the film or show.

    Additionally, to make it more confusing there are completely different rules for Television Producer titles and Feature Film Producer titles.

    Here’s a very simple primer, it’s not exhaustive, but it will help get you close. wr can correct me with any mistakes as he’s been doing it longer than I have, although from a slightly different position.

    When I say “He” below, I mean He/She.

    Television: You want to be one of the Executive Producers. In TV, THAT’S the credit you want. Some shows have multiple “Executive Producers”, but only one is also called “The Showrunner”. That’s the boss. That’s the one who is ultimately responsible for all creative elements of the show. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, works for the showrunner. He picks the writers. He, with the studio and network, chose the Directors. He picks the Prod. Designer. He picks the Cinematographer. He has last say on all Casting, Writing, Shooting, Editing, Music, Post Production. Below them you have your other Exec, Producers. One of these might be the #2, which means what it sounds like. He’s the Lieutenant to the Showrunner. This person might have also been a showrunner already, or soon will be. Below them you have the Writers, who also have various Producer titles; Supervising Producer, Consulting Producer. Co-Producer, and just Producer. Additionally, you have the Line Producer, who is in charge of the money, literally. He might have the Line Producer title, or could be an Executive Producer, a Co-Executive Producer, or even just Producer.

    In Feature Films, Executive Producer is a shite title. No one wants it. In Features, that’s the title given to the actor’s manager, or the finance guy no one likes. Look up “Steven Mnuchin” (yep, same one) and see his credits, for an example. Additional titles in features you don’t want are Co-Producer, Associate Producer, Co-Executive Producer, and a few others. In features, you want the tile of “Producer”. That’s it. That’s the title that qualifies you for an Oscar. None of the others do, which is why people fight for that title in features. That’s the only one that matters.

    The “Participation cut” is virtually non-existent. Maybe 20-30 people in the entire business truly get “Participation” in a manner that means anything. No. The studios are making billions. They’ll gladly pay an actor $20-30-50 million to KEEP HIM FROM HAVING PARTICIPATION.

    The “Big Bang Theory” kids were making over $1.1M per episode the final two seasons. That was close to $50M each. There is a reason TV people like Jerry Seinfeld, Chuck Lorre, Greg Berlanti, and Dick Work are all worth well north of $200 Million dollars each. It’s because they make the studios and networks 10x that, at least.

    There are variations to this, but that’s the gist.

    Hope it helps.

  38. EddieInCA says:

    As for Mr. Robot, only one credit matters, Sam Esmail, Executive Producer.

    The others are vanity credits to keep them doing the show.

  39. Stormy Dragon says:


    I never said I want Yang to be president. I was answering your question about why HE thinks he should be president.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    Yet another example of an entitled Gen Xer. [emphasis added]

    somehow doesn’t sound the same as

    I’m sorry if it came out as a slam against all GenX. But Yang definitely has a sense of entitlement and he is GenX. So….

    But this isn’t my fight and I’m not gonna buy a dog so I can get into it, so I’ll leave it to @Jento decide if your correction/mansplain/fence straddle attempt is okay or not.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: Still, the Earned Income Tax Credit was a decent compromise for at least part the problem that NIT was suggested to address (as was SSI). If we could get that sort of compromise on some of the problems we’re facing these days, there’s no telling what we might accomplish.

  42. EddieInCA says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Okay. If you insist….

    I’m old enough to remember when GenX was described almost EXACTLY like Millennials are today.

    Here’s some cites to back it up.

    From the essay:

    “The paradox is that on one hand, members of this generation [X] don’t want to be ruled by the company. They want to have a life,” said Carolyn Cartwright, senior vice president of human resources for SunTrust Bank. “On the other hand, they’re impatient waiting for job promotions and want all the perks associated with ‘paying one’s dues.’” —The Atlanta Constitution, 1997

    From the essay:

    ….generally “privileged from the system the boomers set up for them and [are] now acting entitled and working against Gen Z,”

    From the essay:

    Here are other reasons why the inappropriate entitlement nature of Boomers and Generation X matters.

    I could go on and on.

    Bottom line is that there is a rather large body of published work regarding the entitlement of many members of GenX.

  43. de stijl says:


    I really appreciate the reply.

    It helped. Sort of. I think not knowing the landscape and the contours makes outsiders incapable of getting all of it.

    Your ecosystem may be more complex than mine. I know what a project manager, a project sponsor, a project lead are responsible for. I can describe it.

    As you are surer than outsiders on the various roles and what it truly means in day-to-day operations.

    Your world is more political than mine, and mine is rife with unexpected pot-holes.

    I have a new found appreciation.

    Quite fascinating!

    Thank you for expaining!

  44. de stijl says:

    I never found generational labels and traits and behaviors associated them to be at all helpful.

    X, Y or Z. Boomer. Greatest.

    People are people. A cohort will share certain cultural touchstones. Personality types are trans-dimensional.

    In fact, if someone is convinced that generational distinctions truly matter over differences in type, I distrust their judgement.