PELLA, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy on Friday called Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley and author Ibram Kendi "modern grand wizards of the modern KKK" at a campaign appearance in Iowa.
It came in response to a voter question asking Ramaswamy, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, if critics would blame him for white supremacy or call him part of white supremacy.
Ramaswamy responded by saying, "Ayanna Pressley, she's in the Congress today. She's a member of 'the squad.' Her words, not mine: 'We don't want any more black faces that don't want to be a black voice. We don't want any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice.'"
Pressley, of Massachusetts, is a prominent progressive voice among House Democrats and the first Black woman elected to Congress from her state. The congresswoman appeared on MSNBC Sunday responding to the comments.
"The verbal assault lobbied against myself and Dr. Kendi is shameful," Pressley said. "It is deeply offensive, and it is dangerous.”
Ramaswamy then quoted bestselling author Kendi from his book "How To Be Anti-Racist."
"Here's what it says," said Ramaswamy. "Opening lines: 'The remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination."
"These are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK," said Ramaswamy.
The passage of Kendi’s book is surrounded by descriptions of anti-racist discrimination as “temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached.” In a MSNBC interview Sunday, Kendi noted he defined discrimination in good and bad ways in his book, drawing an analogy to the elderly being given first access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Talking to reporters after the town hall, Ramaswamy doubled down on his comments.
"The fact that we're taught to see each other on the basis of our genetic attributes is something that would make the old wizards of the KKK proud," said Ramaswamy.
When pressed by NBC News on whether he was calling Pressley and Kendi "grand wizards of the KKK," Ramaswamy said what "the whole movement represented" is what would make "the grand wizards of the KKK proud."
It's not the first time the entrepreneur-turned-presidential candidate has made incendiary comments on race during the campaign. At a town hall in Vail, Iowa on Aug. 6, Ramaswamy called Juneteenth a "useless holiday." The day marks the end of slavery.