Animal rights group accuses Andrew Yang of defamation, spreading ‘conspiracies’

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A politically powerful Manhattan law firm sent a cease and desist letter to Andrew Yang Thursday, warning the mayoral candidate to stop spreading “non-existent conspiracies” about the alleged ties between current Mayor Bill de Blasio and unnamed “allies” to an animal rights group running attack ads against Yang.

“I write as longtime counsel for New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (“NYCLASS”) regarding recent public statements that you and your campaign operatives have made about my client that are false and defamatory,” Gibson Dunn partner Akiva Shapiro wrote to Yang.

The anti-horse carriage group that spent nearly $1 million backing Bill de Blasio is now funding ads attacking Yang. NYCLASS launched six-figures worth of TV and digital spots Monday targeting Yang’s positions on animal rights, raising taxes on the rich, and the $15 minimum wage. Its cofounders include former de Blasio supporters Steve Nislick and Wendy Neu.

NYCLASS had to pay a $10,000 fine to a state watchdog in 2015 to settle ethics violations for failing to register as a lobbyist and file disclosure forms while petitioning de Blasio on issues relating to horse carriages after he was elected mayor.

Yang and his campaign reps responded to the ads by saying the group is “very, very tightly aligned with Mayor de Blasio” who is working with “allies” to keep Yang from winning the Democratic mayoral primary on June 22 and “cutting deals” with chief rivals in the race.

Yang has repeatedly said that de Blasio is secretly working with his chief rival Eric Adams to thwart the former NYPD captain’s campaign. Adams has been leading the crowded field in recent polls while Yang has slipped from the top of the crowded Democratic mayoral primary field.

Shapiro called Yang’s remarks “false and absurd,” adding that no “such deals exist or were ever cut.”

“NYCLASS simply believes that you are the wrong choice for mayor,” Shapiro wrote.

“That engaged New Yorkers are exercising their free speech rights by voicing their concerns about you and your campaign is part of the political process.

“That you and your campaign have responded with this false narrative, however, is inexcusable and beyond the pale. In short, you and your campaign are spinning this yarn out of whole cloth,” Shapiro charged.   

Shapiro’s firm represents prominent litigants in cases against the city, including recent legal battles by Manhattan residents against Mayor de Blasio over homeless shelters. Shapiro’s colleague Randy Mastro was chief of staff to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

A Yang spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

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