Yang aide once criticized his treatment of women, tweeted ‘F the po’

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Then-Democratic presidential candidate businessman Andrew Yang speaks during an event. | Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

NEW YORK — A top aide to Andrew Yang once criticized the New York mayoral candidate’s treatment of a woman who worked for him and, on another occasion, tweeted a shorthand expletive to describe the NYPD.

Sasha Neha Ahuja, then a local progressive activist, made the remarks in 2019 after the New York City Commission on Gender Equity held a hearing that included testimony from a former Yang employee who said she was fired after getting married. Ahuja sits on the commission and chairs another city body focused on preventing workplace discrimination.

“Kimberly Watkins testified that Presidential Candidate @AndrewYang fired her after she got married because she wouldn’t want to work as hard,” she tweeted, linking to a story about the accusation. “Wish I could say it was unbelievable.”

Yang has previously denied accusations he allowed a work culture hostile to women during his presidential run. More recently, he faced criticism after he required some mayoral campaign staffers to sign non-disclosure agreements, which attracted the ire of Maya Wiley, another mayoral candidate. The campaign has since ended the practice.

Ahuja, now a co-campaign manager for Yang, said in a statement Friday that she was taken aback by the accusations when she heard them, but nevertheless decided to join up with the former presidential candidate.

“It’s incredibly important for us to listen to the experiences of all people in the workplace especially those who tend to experience discrimination most frequently — people of color, women of color, LGBTQ folks and those of us whose identities check all the boxes,” she said. “It is also important to make sure all sides are heard and promote a workplace culture that is inclusive and committed to equity.

“That’s why when I had the chance to work for Andrew and build that type of culture on a mayoral campaign, I jumped at the chance and am so excited to be here.”

Another tweet from Ahuja in 2012 could provoke anger from New York’s police officers. After a New York Times report found that former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had participated in an anti-Islam film, and later expressed regret, Ahuja tweeted the story and wrote, “F the po’s,” shorthand for f—k the police.

That sentiment would seem to run counter to Yang’s softer tone on policing during the campaign. While he has called for reforms including a civilian commissioner and a requirement that officers live in the five boroughs, he has also made sure to highlight rising crime and New Yorkers’ safety concerns. By doing so, he has differentiated himself from rivals who characterize the NYPD as largely a divisive force that needs to be dramatically cut in the budget.

Yang brushed off the tweet and said that he deliberately assembled a team with a variety of viewpoints.

“The rest of the field can focus on my staffer’s tweets from years ago, but we’re focused on the big ideas like cash relief, Covid response and economic recovery that New Yorkers expect their next mayor to deliver on,” Yang said in a statement. “I wanted my team to represent a diverse array of backgrounds, experiences and views, and I’m proud to have all these folks fighting with me for New Yorkers.”

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