Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has defended himself from intense backlash after he called Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and author Ibram X Kendi “modern grand wizards of the modern KKK”.
Mr Ramaswamy made the inflammatory statement during a campaign stop in Iowa after being asked by a voter asked if critics would blame him for white supremacy or call him part of it.
“The greatest racism that I have experienced…comes from the modern left at a scale unimaginable,” Mr Ramaswamy said.
He continued: “Ayanna Pressley, she’s in the Congress today. She’s a member of ‘the squad.’ Her words, not mine: ‘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.’”
Mr Ramaswamy then quoted Mr Kendi’s book, How To Be An Antiracist.
“Here’s what it says,” said Mr Ramaswamy. “Opening lines: ‘The remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Mr Ramaswamy then claimed that “these are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK”.
He reiterated his point to reporters after the event, telling NBC News: “The fact that we’re taught to see each other on the basis of our genetic attributes is something that would make the old wizards of the KKK proud.”
Democratic Representative Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts. Dr Kendi is the author of nine New York Times bestsellers and founder of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.
The Independent has contacted to Rep. Pressley and Dr Kendi for comment.
The Democratic congresswoman hit back at the comments. “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,” a spokesperson told Politico.
“This is backwards and harmful, but that is the point.”
Mr Ramaswamy was taken to task for his remarks during CNN’s Sunday show State of the Union by host Dana Bash.
“You know, I’m sure, the KKK was responsible for more than a century worth of horrific lynchings, rapes, murders of black people,” Ms Bash said.
She then asked: “How, in any way, are the views you’re talking about comparable to the views and atrocities committed by the KKK?”
The presidential candidate doubled down.
“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.”
“You didn’t just say they would be proud,” Ms Bash corrected. “You said these are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
The entrepreneur has made other provocative race-based remarks. He previously called to “cancel Juneteenth or one of the other useless [holidays] we made up”.
“The reason for making [Juneteenth] a holiday was under political duress. It was a political hostage situation on the back of the death of George Floyd,” he told NBC News earlier this month.