In echoes of the attempts by Russia’s President Putin to justify his invasion of Ukraine, US Presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, referred to Ukraine’s president as a “Nazi” and a “comedian in cargo pants” during the Republican candidates’ debate, which was televised live by NBC news on Wednesday.
The US Congress has approved around $113 billion in military and humanitarian support to Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion. Ramaswamy was asked whether he was in favor of providing further US support to Ukraine, following Zelensky’s recent pleas. While several of the other Republican presidential candidates have said that they support such actions he said he was opposed to providing further assistance to Ukraine.
Asked why, he said that he and more and more Republicans are following his example and reject US involvement in Ukraine’s war. He then resorted into what many saw as an attack on Ukraine’s democracy as well as a vitriolic and unnecessary personal attack on its President.
“Ukraine is not a paragon of democracy. This is a country that has banned 11 opposition parties. It has consolidated all media into one state TV media arm – that’s not democratic.
It has threatened not to hold elections this year unless the US forks over more money – that is not democratic.
It has celebrated a Nazi in its ranks, the comedian in cargo pants, a man called Zelensky… That is not democratic.”
Ramaswamy’s insinuation that Zelensky is a Nazi comes despite the fact that the Ukrainian president is Jewish.
The Republican candidate went even further in justifying his position by saying:
“The regions of Ukraine that are occupied by Russia right now in the Donbas: Luhansk and Donetsk. These are Russian-speaking regions that have not even been part of Ukraine since 2014.
To frame this as some kind of battle between good versus evil, don’t buy it.”
Ramaswamy’s comments resulted in shocked reactions among the live audience in the debate venue, on the internet, in the mainstream and social media – where what the New York Times said was hundreds of stunned viewers, posted negative reactions to the candidate’s outburst, a typical response is shown below:
Vivek Ramaswamy calls President Zelenskyy a “Nazi” and a “comedian in cargo pants.”— CALL TO ACTIVISM (@CalltoActivism) November 9, 2023
Calling Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, a Nazi is not only antisemitic, but it’s insanely stupid.
Is Vivek evil or just a moron?
The other candidates all spoke in favor of continued US aid to Kyiv, although South Carolina Senator, Tim Scott urged “a level of accountability” that “allows the American people to understand where the resources have gone.”
Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, commenting on Ramaswamy’s statement, said “Putin and President Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought [of] someone like that becoming president.”
Several Jewish organizations strongly denounced Ramaswamy, calling his speech “beyond outrageous.”
Zelensky, who is Jewish, has expressed his solidarity with Israel, saying its war with Hamas in Gaza is furthering Russia’s aims by distracting the world from the ongoing war, and has reportedly sent an official request to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office asking to coordinate a visit. In 2021, Zelensky signed a law combating anti-Semitism.
Shortly after the debate, Tricia McLaughlin who is both Ramaswamy’s wife and lead spokesperson tried to row back on her husband’s comments trying to say the “Nazi” reference was about the September visit to Canada when Zelensky had participated in the honoring of a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian WWII war veteran, Yaroslav Hunka, who had in fact served with German forces.
She then took a step back from the apology saying that taken out of context, Ramaswamy’s remarks could be easily misunderstood. “He was talking quickly and kind of oscillated in his words,” she said.
Ramaswamy has been an outspoken critic of Ukraine’s government and has long advocated a halt to US support for the country. Last month, he put forward a plan to end the war with Russia by ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia.
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