Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy sparred with CNN anchor Dana Bash in an interview Sunday where she peppered him with questions about his comparison of remarks made by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) to that of “modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
Ramaswamy stood by his remarks, which he made at a campaign event Friday, of Pressley, who is Black. He maintained that his assessment of her comments should spark an “open and honest” discussion and blamed what he called the “modern left” for racism that he has encountered in the U.S.
“What I said is the grand wizards of the KKK would be proud of what they would hear her say because there’s nothing more racist than saying that your skin color predicts something about the content of your viewpoints or your ideas,” Ramaswamy said.
“You didn’t just say they would be proud,” Bash pushed back. “You said these are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
“You’re right about that, Dana,” Ramaswamy fired back. “I think it is the same spirit to say that I can look at you and based on just your skin color that I know something about the content of your character, that I know something about the content of the viewpoints you’re allowed to express.
“For Ayanna Pressley to tell me that because of my skin color, I can’t express my views. That is wrong. It is divisive. It is driving hate in this country,” he said.
Bash contested that notion.
“That is a debate that is based on nonviolent discussion — that you just said you’re using rhetoric, which she said she’s using rhetoric. That’s one thing, and another thing is to say that she represents and she is a modern version of a KKK which, as you know, was dedicated to the subjugation and violence against Black people. How on earth is she a modern grand wizard of that kind of organization?” Bash asked the 2024 GOP presidential candidate.
Ramaswamy at the campaign event Friday was responding to remarks by Pressley in 2019 in which she said: “We don’t want any more Black faces that don’t want to be a Black voice. We don’t want any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.”
At the time, Pressley’s spokesperson reportedly said that the congresswoman was making the point, in reference to Democrats, that “diversity at the table doesn’t matter if there’s not real diversity in policy.”
When further pressed on his comments, Ramaswamy said he was saying out loud what people said privately.
“I stand by what I said to provoke an open and honest discussion in this country because there is a gap, Dana, between what people will say in private today and what they will say in public. I think we need to close that gap,” Ramaswamy said.
“I think we need to have real, open, honest raw conversation as Americans. That is our path to national unity. And there are many Americans today who are deeply frustrated by the new culture of anti-racism, that’s really racism in new clothing, and we need to have that debate in the open,” he continued.
Ramaswamy reiterated his suggestion that those who sound most like the KKK today are people who promote “discrimination on the basis of skin color” — a description often invoked by those who oppose affirmative action to describe those in favor.
“We all agree that the KKK was an awful organization. That is a toxic stain in our national history. So given that, we can start from that point of agreement. Now that allows us to say, well, who actually sounds more like that organization today? The people who are calling for more racial discrimination on the basis of skin color,” he said.
Pressley’s press team responded Saturday to Ramaswamy’s comments Friday, calling them “backwards and harmful.”
“We typically don’t engage in these bad-faith attacks, but yesterday a line was crossed. A GOP candidate referred to Ayanna as ‘a modern grand wizard of the KKK’ because she speaks out against racial injustice,” Pressley’s team said, according to Politico.