Rep. Ayanna Pressley says GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy isn't 'occupying any real estate in my mind' after he compared her to 'modern grand wizards' of the KKK

  • Ayanna Pressley on Sunday hit back at Vivek Ramaswamy after he compared her to a KKK grand wizard.

  • "It is deeply offensive," she said of Ramaswamy's comments while on MSNBC's "PoliticsNation."

  • Ramaswamy first made the remarks last week in Iowa after answering a question regarding race.

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy tore into Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and "How to Be an Antiracist" author Ibram X. Kendi on the campaign trail, comparing the high-profile Black figures to "modern grand wizards of the modern KKK."

The response came as Ramaswamy — whose parents immigrated from India to the United States — was asked if his critics might try to lump him in as part of white supremacy. In making his comments last week, Ramaswamy argued that Pressley and Kendi didn't embrace diversity of opinion among members of minority groups.

During a Sunday appearance on MSNBC's "PoliticsNation" with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Pressley firmly rejected Ramaswamy's remarks, calling his words "dangerous."

"The verbal assault lobbied against myself and Dr. Kendi is shameful," she told Sharpton. "It is deeply offensive. And it is dangerous."

"It is not that long ago that we were besieged by images of white supremacists carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville," she continued, referencing the infamous 2017 white supremacist rally in the Virginia college town. "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, the first Black woman elected to the Boston City Council and one of the most progressive members of the House of Representatives, then said that her ancestors had been "brutalized, lynched, raped by the Ku Klux Klan."

"I recall when my family member had moved into a predominantly white cul-de-sac in the '80s when I was a child, and we had a cross burned in our lawn," she told Sharpton. "So, for me, as deeply shameful and offensive and dangerous as his words are, he is not occupying any real estate in my mind. I remain squarely focused on the work of undoing the centuries of harm that has precisely been done to Black Americans and charting a path of true restorative justice and racial justice forward."

In criticizing Pressley, Ramaswamy pointed to a comment made by the congresswoman at the 2019 Netroots Nation conference, where she spoke of the need to be bold and proactive in Congress.

"This is the time to shake that table. … We don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be a brown voice," Pressley said during the event. "We don't need any more Black faces that don't want to be a Black voice."

At the time, the then-spokesperson for Pressley said that the congresswoman sought to articulate that "diversity at the table doesn't matter if there's not real diversity in policy."

Kendi, while speaking with MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi on Sunday, remarked on the need for real equity and referenced the importance of elderly citizens receiving COVID-19 vaccines before other groups due to the increased vulnerability of their immune systems.

"That could be described as age discrimination, but it was actually an equitable policy that saved lives," he said. "And similarly, when Black people are deprived and have been deprived for centuries of rights and resources, how else are we going to create equity if not providing specific resources and rights to them?"

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