Dean Phillips Defends Scrapping DEI Language After Getting Ackman Support

(Bloomberg) -- Representative Dean Phillips, the long-shot contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, defended his decision to scrub the phrase “diversity, equity and inclusion” from his campaign website.

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The candidate said at a Bloomberg News event Monday that while he supports equality and justice measures for Black Americans to reduce the racial wealth gap, he said the wording has become “yet another example of words put together that are now slogans that are being litigated and dividing the country.”

The language was dropped from his site not long after he had earned the support of Pershing Square Capital Management founder Bill Ackman, who donated $1 million to a super political action committee supporting Phillips’s candidacy and has been a strong critic of DEI programs.

“Nobody buys me. Nobody tells me what to do,” Phillips said at the Bloomberg event, in an apparent reference to Ackman. The Minnesota congressman is mounting a challenge to President Joe Biden, saying that voters deserve options beyond the incumbent and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

Ackman, who has a history of donating to both Democrats and Republicans, has said Biden should step aside for a younger generation. Ackman has said Phillips has a “credible path to winning the nomination.”

Phillips said he wanted the phrasing on his campaign website to be consistent with how it was expressed on his congressional website. It was changed to “Equity & Restorative Justice,” the site shows. Phillips added that Ackman forwarded him materials that the billionaire investor asked the candidate to read.

Ackman on X said he sent the materials because he believed “that Dean like me had been misinformed about what the DEI movement was all about.” He said he didn’t suggest the removal of the language from the candidate’s website and added that Phillips “still has much to learn about the problems with the DEI ideology.”

DEI has been under fire in recent months as a number of conservative legal groups aligned with former President Donald Trump attacked companies from Macy’s Inc. to BlackRock Inc., accusing them of discriminating against White men. The debate threatens to reshape hiring policies across corporate America.

“Am I learning about some of the programs in certain companies and certain campuses that I believe are having byproducts that are perhaps dangerous for other communities? Yes,” Phillips said.

--With assistance from Gregory Korte.

(Adds detail on the language and Ackman’s comments from sixth paragraph)

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