Democrats slam presidential candidate Ramaswamy for racist remarks toward Rep. Pressley

“So many of our Black women leaders already have targets on their back,” political strategist Alencia Johnson told theGrio.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy came under fire this week for remarks he made toward U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., that are being called out as racist.

“I am disgusted by his remarks,” political strategist Alencia Johnson told theGrio. “So many of our Black women leaders already have targets on their back.”

Left to right: Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. (Photo: Getty Images)

Johnson said Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old businessman, calling Congresswoman Pressley a “modern grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan “is speaking to…supporters we know take those words and actually act upon them and so it’s dangerous and it’s very scary.”

Ramaswamy made the remark while campaigning in Iowa last Friday when asked about comments made by Pressley in 2019. The Republican White House hopeful said the Massachusetts lawmaker was “racist” for saying the Democratic Party does not “need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.”

Ramaswamy doubled down on his harsh critique of Pressley on Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s “Inside Politics.” 

“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 viewpoint,” said Ramaswamy.

CNN anchor Dana Bash interrupted him to clarify, “You didn’t just say that they would be proud. You said these are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.” 

Ramaswamy replied, “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.” He went on to explain that his remarks about Pressley were intended to create an open dialogue about race.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – AUGUST 23: Republican presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy participates in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Author and activist D. Watkins told theGrio that Ramaswamy’s remarks showed that “he has no clear understanding of what ‘grand wizard’ or the ‘KKK’ means.”

“I get really frustrated when conservative candidates try to have these conversations about race because they haven’t done the research,” said Watkins. He added. “They don’t know the language, they don’t know the history, they just know talking points.”

Watkins continued, “The fact that he feels comfortable saying these things in public is dangerous.”

However, he said there’s a “good side” because “the people he is trying to impress also don’t really like him.” Watkins said conservative donors, for example, are “never going to invest fully in him.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), condemned Ramaswamy’s remarks in a statement.

“This sort of bad faith comparison about a member of the House who frequently uses their platform to stand against hate and violence is not only an insult to the plight of Black Americans, but to all Americans of moral integrity,” said Horsford. 

He added, “Vivek Ramaswamy’s comments against Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley do not provoke ‘open and honest discussion’ on race in America, rather they reveal the depths of his own dishonesty.”

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 17: U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) participates in a House Financial Services Committee Hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building on May 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. The hearing was held to examine the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Johnson told theGrio that attacking Rep. Pressley is even more dangerous following the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters.

She explained, “Congresswoman Pressley was at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and constantly has been a target of the Republican Party for speaking truth to power, and this is nothing but adding fuel to the fire that they have already started.”

Johnson told theGrio, “This is bigger than Vivek.”

“This is the root, the nasty infectious roots within the conservative right to not only continue to attack Black women and put Black women in prominent positions in danger,” she said. “He’s also putting Black people in harm’s way.”

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