Vivek Ramaswamy dove headfirst into his controversial comments on Sunday, defending his comparison of Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to a Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. The entrepreneur, who is running for president in the GOP primary, said he was merely attempting to debate the issue of racism.
Ramaswamy had blasted the congresswoman, who is Black, on Friday for her 2019 comment that Democrats “don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.” He said her words were “the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.” Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, he double downed on it—all while trying to dismiss it as a “fringe comment.”
“The Grand Wizard 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 and your viewpoints to support your ideas,” he said.
Host Dana Bash pushed back at the candidate, asking him, “How on earth is she a modern grand wizard of that kind of an organization?” The Ku Klux Klan, a racist organization, has a long history of subjecting Black people to lynchings, murders, and sexual assault.
Ramaswamy tried to brush the question off entirely, arguing his inflammatory comment was an attempt at having an “intellectually honest” debate about race relations in the country. Still, Bash said, that ignored how the KKK “lynched people, they raped people, they murdered people, they burned their homes.”
“And that was obviously wrong,” he responded.
Pressley’s team seized on the comments in a fundraising email last week, saying “ a line was crossed” in his remarks. “A GOP candidate referred to Ayanna as ‘a modern grand wizard of the KKK’ because she speaks out against racial injustice,” the fundraising pitch read, according to Politico. “This is backwards and harmful, but that is the point.”
Bash continued to press Ramaswamy: Could his comparison of a Black congresswoman to a KKK grand wizard maybe have been a step too far?
“I stand by what I said to provoke an open and honest discussion in this country,” Ramaswamy said. “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. We need to have real open, honest, raw conversations as Americans.”
Ramaswamy then complained that Bash, like “what many in the media do,” was pulling a “fringe comment” out of context to attack him, giving Bash an easy retort. “So you just said that your comment was fringe,” she said.