Dana Bash took GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy to task for comparing Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) to one of the “modern grand wizards of the modern KKK” during an Iowa campaign event on Friday.
Bash provided a stern fact check for Ramaswamy on Sunday morning’s “State of the Union,” when she tried to get the political newcomer to defend his comments about the lawmaker, who became the first Black woman to represent her state in Congress when she was elected in 2018.
“You know, I’m sure, the KKK was responsible for more than a century’s worth of horrific lynchings, rapes, murders of Black people,” she said. “How, in any way, are the views you’re talking about comparable to the views and atrocities committed by the KKK?”
Ramaswamy tried to rewrite his comments, telling Bash he only said Ku Klux Klan leaders would be “proud” of Pressley.
After Bash reminded Ramaswamy he was misquoting himself, the former biotech businessman tried to link Pressley’s words to the “spirit” of the white supremacist terrorist organization.
“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,” he said.
“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. This is dividing our country to the breaking point,” he added.
While he eventually agreed that the KKK’s reign of terror was “obviously wrong,” Ramaswamy called for an “open and honest discussion” of race, claiming there is “a gap between what people will say in private today and what they will say in public.”
“I think we need to have real, open, honest, raw conversation as Americans,” he said. “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.”
Pressley’s team first responded to Ramaswamy in a fundraising email on Saturday, writing, “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,” it went on. “This is backwards and harmful, but that is the point.”
Pressley addressed Ramaswamy’s attack head-on during a discussion with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday, in which she described his statements as “shameful,” “deeply offensive” and “dangerous.”
“It is not that long ago that we were besieged by images of white supremacists carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville,” she said. “It was not that long ago that a white supremacist mob seized the Capitol, waving Confederate flags and erecting nooses on the west lawn of the Capitol.”
The legislator also spoke of her own family’s history being “brutalized, lynched, raped by the Ku Klux Klan.”
“For me, as deeply shameful and offensive and dangerous as his words are, he is not occupying any real estate in my mind,” Pressley said.
“I remain squarely focused on the work of undoing the centuries of harm that has precisely been done to Black Americans and charting a path of true restorative justice and racial justice forward.”