Yang disavows support from white nationalists: 'It's been a point of confusion'

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Saagar Enjeti: Tuesday's Democratic debate already 'rigged' against Gabbard, Sanders Analysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates MORE disavowed support from white nationalists in a televised CNN town hall Sunday night.

Yang during the event tied his support among white nationalists, which has emerged on message boards and sites like Reddit, to earlier tweets he posted about demographic changes in the U.S. as well as comments he has made about the impact of the opioid crisis on rural white communities. The entrepreneur made similar comments about the vulnerability of poor white communities in his book, “The War on Normal People.”

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“In the context of my book, I was saying, how will this tribalism and violence manifest itself. Poor whites who felt like they had no future and then that violence would emerge in large part because that group would become increasingly angry and distressed,” Yang said. “That’s the context of the book.”

Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, quipped that “I don't look much like a white nationalist. It’s been a point of confusion” and added, “I don't want the support of anyone who has any kind of agenda that's different than the agenda of this campaign. And our slogan is humanity first.”

Yang assured one questioner, a survivor of the August 2017 Charlottesville, Va., car attack by a white supremacist that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer at the "Unite the Right" rally, that he was “most concerned” about white nationalist violence, although he did not directly answer her question about whether he would sign a bill defining white nationalist violence as terrorism if he is elected.

The focus, Yang said, should be on turning white nationalists away from the ideology.

“And that's more difficult, it's more painstaking, but over time, it's our best path forward to hopefully convince people that there is no place for hate in the United States of America,” he said.