Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correctly identify the Republican candidate named in the last paragraph as Asa Hutchinson.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has condemned recent comments by GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy that compared Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) to “modern day grand wizards” of the Ku Klux Klan.
Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old businessman and the son of Indian immigrants, made the remark during a campaign stop in Iowa last week before doubling down in the face of criticism Sunday and Monday.
Ramaswamy said his comments were intended to provoke an “honest and open discussion,” but the CBC on Tuesday said the comments “reveal the depths of his own dishonesty.”
“But his words are not merely the ramblings of a deeply unserious person — this is part of a dark and calculated attempt to obfuscate the truth about racism in America,” the CBC said in a statement.
“The majority of reasonable-minded Americans understand that the Ku Klux Klan was, and is today, a group that wishes to reestablish white supremacy through intimidation and violence. We tragically saw the consequence of that ideology a few days ago in Jacksonville, Florida,” the statement continued.
A 21-year-old shot and killed three Black patrons of a Dollar General in Jacksonville on Saturday before shooting himself.
“Vivek Ramaswamy understands that there is an appetite for racism and bigotry within the base of the extreme MAGA Republican party and he is opting to shamelessly carry the water of white supremacy for his own political gain,” the CBC said.
Ramaswamy, who has framed himself as a millennial alternative to former President Trump, set off a firestorm Friday when he accused Pressley, the first Black woman elected to represent Massachusetts in Congress, of racism for saying in 2019 that Democrats don’t “need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice.”
Pressley’s spokesperson later told The Washington Post that Pressley’s point was that “diversity at the table doesn’t matter if there’s not real diversity in policy.”
Ramaswamy is one of a few people of color running for the GOP presidential nomination, and he has sought to use his background to appeal to GOP voters.
Earlier in the month, the businessman promised that if he wins the nomination, he would “bring along voters of diverse shades of melanin in droves” to win the general election.
The CBC is urging the larger Republican Party to condemn Ramaswamy’s words.
“The Republican Party cannot be silent. If this does not speak to their values, leaders within the Party have an obligation to say so,” the CBC said. “This rhetoric is beyond dangerous and deserves nothing short of full condemnation.”
Pressley herself responded to the comments over the weekend, calling “the verbal assault” from Ramaswamy “shameful” and “dangerous.”
“It is not that long ago that we were besieged by images of white supremacists carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville. 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,” Pressley told the Rev. Al Sharpton.
She added that her “ancestors and living family members have been brutalized, lynched, raped by the Ku Klux Klan.”
Only one member of the Republican Party thus far has spoken out. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is also running for the Republican nomination, on Sunday criticized his competitor for “not really looking at real life in America.”
Updated at 4:19 p.m.