Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and CNN’s Dana Bash clashed over comments Ramaswamy made on Friday, likening Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to a modern KKK grand wizard during a Sunday segment of CNN’s State of the Union.
Ayanna Pressley is a member of Congress's "Squad," a group of progressive congressional representatives. The Squad regularly supports anti-Israel initiatives.
The initial comments, documented in an NBC clip of Ramaswamy’s recent campaign stop in Iowa, came in the context of how Ramaswamy sees the bulk of racism in America as coming from the political Left. Ramaswamy continued, making the argument that Progressive views on race in America, such as those expressed by Pressley, are the views “of the modern grand wizards; of the modern KKK.”
In the Sunday CNN segment, Bash took issue with the comments.
“You took it to another level on Friday… You took issue with comments from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Bash said. She preceded to read back Ramaswamy’s words suggesting Pressley is a member of the modern KKK.
“You know, I’m sure, the KKK was responsible for more than a century’s worth of horrific lynchings, rapes, murders of Black people,” the CNN journalist continued. “How, in any way, are the views you’re talking about comparable to the views and atrocities committed by the KKK?”
“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,” Ramaswamy replied.
Bash rebutted by drawing a contrast between leftist, progressive rhetoric and the KKK by saying comments from people such as Pressley come in the context of a “debate that is based on non-violent discussion.” In contradistinction, Bash argued, the KKK has a history stained in the blood of black Americans and “was dedicated to the subjugation and violence against black people.”
However, arguing that, as there is consensus that the KKK was an awful, violent, and racist organization, Ramaswamy maintains his position and asks “who actually sounds more like that organization today? The people who are calling for more racial discrimination on the basis of skin color.”
“The whole point is that the KKK wasn’t just about rhetoric,” Bash rebutted, digging in. “They lynched people, they murdered people, they raped people.”
Ramaswamy, nevertheless, continued to press his argument.
“I stand by what I said to provoke an open and honest discussion in this country 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. I think we need to have a real open, honest, raw conversation as Americans,”
Bash concluded by noting how she didn’t see how comparing a sitting member of Congress to a member of the KKK constituted open and honest discussion.
What the conversation missed about the KKK
Neither party in the discussion seemed to bluntly acknowledge the continued existence of the KKK in the United States.
In apparent contradiction to the argument advanced by Bash, KKK groups continue to exist, holding the same pernicious views as the organization did at the turn of the 20th century despite the fact that it no longer actively, consistently, murders and tortures American black people.
Infamous modern KKK leader, David Duke, for example, despite having never committed murder, is well known for his vitriolic racist and antisemitic rhetoric and has come to represent, for many, the modern KKK.