Adoring fans and raising a child with autism: Andrew and Evelyn Yang share what's behind his unlikely run

Dana Bash sits down with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and his wife Evelyn for their first joint interview.

Posted: Nov 4, 2019 5:40 AM
Updated: Nov 4, 2019 5:40 AM

Andrew Yang couldn't wait for his warm up act to finish.

"I think I'm going to go up there before the song is over just to like rock out a little bit," Yang told us, as he bounded up the stairs.

Rivers Cuomo, of the band Weezer, was a big draw for the crowd standing in the cold rain, and that the main attraction -- a presidential candidate who has become an unlikely phenomenon -- was dancing and singing on stage was almost too much for the self described "Yang gang" audience to handle.

Yang has become known for antics like crowd surfing at rallies, but here he was even more hyped up than usual because his wife Evelyn was campaigning with him for the first time.

Knowing that, his die hard supporters barely let him start talking before chanting her name.

"Let's give a warm Yang Gang welcome to my wife Evelyn Yang," he obliged.

"Thank you guys, so, so, so much. I love the Yang Gang. You guys keep Andrew going. And you're going to take him all the way. Oh my gosh," she told the crowd, visibly overwhelmed.

To say this is not what Evelyn Yang imagined when she met and married her businessman husband defines understatement.

In an exclusive television interview, her first ever, she said Yang came to her soon after the 2016 presidential election saying that he wanted to run for president, but she thought it was a phase: "I thought to myself, 'This will pass.'"

"When I realized that he was serious, was when he said he was going to quit his job," she recalled.

Evelyn Yang admits that she misses her husband when they're apart, but her focus has been on her family.

"I'm a mom of two young kids, and I think it was pretty pragmatic of me to lay low and just kind of let him get the message out there, while I took care of our family and really prioritize that."

She hopes now that she's stepped out onto the campaign trail that her voice as a woman and a mother will resonate with the Yang gang. She plans to stick around.

"The momentum that's behind him now, I think it's important for me to be there, by his side, as much as I possibly can," she said.

She already knew her husband's reasons for wanting to run -- research he was doing about automation taking human's jobs. Not in the future, but right now. He told her he wants to push for universal basic income (which he rebranded "the freedom dividend" after testing it with focus groups) or $1,000 a month guaranteed income to all US citizens over 18 years old.

"The freedom dividend and humanity first is the reason why I let him run for president," she said.

Still, she thought someone other than a political newcomer without a famous name would take up the mantle.

"She said 'Andrew, there's no reason for you to do this because someone else is going to run on universal basic income and the automation of jobs,' and I was like, 'I'm not sure that's really happening,'" Yang said with a laugh.

'Our son made our family better'

The presidential candidate discusses his family a lot on on the campaign trail, especially their 7-year-old son Christopher, who is autistic.

"It would never occur to me not to talk about our son. And just to that, we love him dearly. We want to share his story with the world," he said.

But for her, it took some convincing.

"At first, I was actually sheepish about having our family in the public at all," Evelyn Yang said. "But I do think that it's really important to talk about, because there's all this stigma around special needs, and autism specifically. And there really shouldn't be, because all our children have something special to offer. And our son has made our family better."

She admits it's at times been hard on their family, but feels it's critical that she and Yang continue to tell their story.

"It's easy to feel alone. And I think that's what's so important about being public with this, is so that people realize that they are not alone and that it's really a lot more common than you think," she said.

Connecting with other families across the country is what pushes them to continue to talk about this.

"When I've gone around the country, I've been really touched by how many parents, and families have come up to me and said that it's the first time they've heard a family talk about it openly," he said.

Giving a voice to stay-at-home moms

Evelyn and Andrew Yang have made adjustments to care for their family. Evelyn worked at L'oreal until 2010 and continued in marketing until Christopher was born in 2012.

"I just never went back to work because it ended up being a lot more, motherhood ended up being a lot harder than I expected," she said.

"It took years for us to kind of figure out what we were dealing with," she added, referring to her son's autism. "Eventually though I did realize that there's no way I'm going anywhere, and that this is going to be the next several years of my life."

She is well aware that having the means to leave her job to focus on her children is a luxury, and it's just another reason she is supportive of her husband's unlikely run for the Oval Office.

"I really appreciate how Andrew specifically, has been kind of giving me credit for that on the trail. Because I don't think that anyone else is really giving a voice to stay-at-home moms, because being a mom is a job. I mean, it's the hardest job I've ever had," she admits.

"It's stay-at-home parents, it's caregivers, it's nurturers, it's also even volunteers, and artists, and people that do things that help move society forward, but right now don't get any recognition," Andrew Yang added.

'My mom would love you'

In one of the few interactions Evelyn Yang has had until now with reporters, she said her now husband had "no game" when they first met.

"Yeah. She did say that. Yet here we are," her husband laughed.

"'No game,' Why did I say that?" she asked rhetorically.

"Because I was the opposite of smooth," he jumped in.

"But I liked that, I really liked that about him. He wore his heart on his sleeve from the very beginning," she said as they squeezed one another's hand.

"It was like our second date and he was like, 'My mom would love you,'" she remembered, a declaration that could have gone badly so soon. But it didn't.

"I thought that was so sweet that he would care what his mom thought about me and that she would like me," Evelyn Yang quickly added.

Andrew Yang's self described "nerdy campaign" is something Evelyn concedes is endearing.

"I love nerds and he was pretty nerdy when we were dating too, but it was one of my favorite things," she said.

"As America could tell, I'm very fortunate that Evelyn likes nerds," Yang joked back.

'I would never tattoo your face on my body'

Fast forward eight years, and she's marching in the rain with a husband she never thought would run for anything, much less president. But Andrew Yang is still in the race and closed the third fundraising quarter with $10 million in donations. In early October, he made the stage for the November Democratic debate when he received his fourth qualifying poll, something several sitting members of Congress have not been able to do.

Evelyn always believed in her husband, but could never have predicted how much his message would resonate.

"I always thought he was going to do a lot better than what most people thought he was going to do. Because I know him, and I know how capable he is. But I had no idea that it was going to be where it is today," she admitted.

His staying power is a testament to the following he has attracted through new media -- from podcasts to Twitter.

But Eveyln Yang is not on social media of any kind.

"Every once in a while I'll Google him to see what he's up to, because Google will give me his Twitter feed and that's how I'll know that he's crowd surfing," she said.

There was even a man who tattooed his face on his calf.

"I think he loves you more than I do because I will never tattoo your face on my body," she told her husband emphatically.

"But it's that kind of passion. It's that kind of love, that kind of support that has been shocking to me."

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