VAIL, Iowa — Vivek Ramaswamy suggested canceling Juneteenth, calling it a “useless” holiday in a conversation with Iowa voters Saturday.
Less than two months ago, however, he posted a video on social media celebrating the day.
Breaking down his plan Saturday to institute a national voting holiday, Ramaswamy, a GOP presidential candidate, proposed making space for the new holiday by canceling an old one.
“Cancel Juneteenth or one of the other useless ones we made up,” Ramaswamy told an applauding crowd gathered at a welding company here.
Asked by NBC News to clarify whether he thought Juneteenth was a “useless” holiday, Ramaswamy said, “I basically do.”
Less than two months ago, on Juneteenth itself, he spoke differently about the celebration.
“We don’t just look back and flog ourselves,” Ramaswamy said in the video June 19, which was posted to his account on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.
“What we celebrate is how far we’ve come. And as a first-generation American myself, you better believe I’m proud of it. Happy Juneteenth everybody,” he said.
When NBC News asked Ramaswamy on Saturday whether he believed Veterans Day or Memorial Day were also useless holidays, he said he didn’t.
“I stand with the presumption of time-tested traditions,” he said.
On Saturday, Ramaswamy called the Juneteenth holiday “redundant,” saying it overlapped with other holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.
Yet Juneteenth celebrates something completely different. As the National Museum of African American History and Culture notes, Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced a quarter-million Black people had been freed by executive decree.
“The reason for making it a holiday was under political duress. It was a political hostage situation on the back of the death of George Floyd,” Ramaswamy said.
One of his competitors, former Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who is biracial, criticized Ramaswamy for saying he "hopes to cancel a holiday that celebrates equality and freedom."
"His gimmicks and shtick aren’t serious," Hurd said.
On Juneteenth two months ago, the NAACP issued a statement saying, “Today we celebrate our emancipation while also acknowledging that we are still fighting for true freedom.”