Dana Bash invited Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning to discuss comments the lawyer and entrepreneur made about Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley. While speaking at a campaign event on Friday, he compared a 2019 statement from Pressley to something that would be said by “modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
After Bash told Ramaswamy he “took it to another level” on Friday with his Ku Klux Klan comparison, she added, “You know, I’m sure, that the KKK was responsible for more than a century’s worth of horrific lynchings, rapes, murders, of Black people. How in any way are the views you’re talking about comparable to the views and atrocities committed by the KKK?”
Ramaswamy was quick to insist, “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.”
But Bash was unwilling to let the potential nominee edit his comments in real-time. She interjected, “You didn’t just say they would be proud. You said these are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
Ramaswamy agreed. He replied, “You’re right about that, Dana. 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.”
The entrepreneur concluded, “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.”
The comments in question date back to July 2019. Pressley was speaking at the Netroots Nation conference about the importance of diversity in policy as well as physically in a room when she commented, “This is the time to shake that table. … We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need any more Black faces that don’t want to be a Black voice.”
The context in which Pressley delivered her remarks is also important when it comes to understanding her intent. Her spokeswoman Lina Francis explained that Pressley was attempting to illustrate that “diversity at the table doesn’t matter if there’s not real diversity in policy.”
July 2019 was marked by intense fighting within the ranks of the Democratic Party. Pressley, along with the then-newly elected Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar had openly opposed then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Senate-approved border aid package.
While speaking to The New York Times about the opposition, Pelosi had commented that the four “have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.” In turn, Ocasio-Cortez called out Pelosi for “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”
Pressley was accused of making the 2019 comments toward the Congressional Black Caucus, which backed Pelosi. She denied those allegations.
Watch the exchange between Dana Bash and Vivek Ramaswamy in the interview above.