(WASHINGTON) — Republican presidential candidate and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s climbed in the polls thanks in part to his strategy of embracing and defending former President Donald Trump, made headlines over the weekend when he blamed “pervasive censorship” for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol — but he had a different message in the days following the riot.
“You want to know what caused Jan. 6?” Ramaswamy told moderator Tucker Carlson Friday at The Family Leadership Summit, a GOP forum held at the site of the upcoming Iowa caucuses. “There’s such a temptation to say that there’s one man whose name is unspeakable,” he said, before blaming the attack on “pervasive censorship in this country in the lead-up” to the attack.
“You tell people in this country they cannot speak, that is when they scream,” Ramaswamy said. “You tell people they cannot scream, that is when they tear things down.”
But in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, Ramaswamy, 37, forcefully condemned the attack and blasted the former president, who’s now the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
“What Trump did last week was wrong,” Ramaswamy wrote on Twitter in the days following the riot. “Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple. I’ve said it before.”
In another tweet, the biotech entrepreneur said, “Trump’s egregious behavior last week blinds us from seeing that Big Tech’s cure is worse. Makes for a winning game for China in the long run.”
And after social media companies banned some accounts in the aftermath of Jan. 6, Ramaswamy co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece in which he called the Capitol riot “disgraceful” while arguing against “big-tech” censorship.
“Hard cases make bad law, and Mr. Trump presented America with a hard case last week,” Ramaswamy wrote in the January 2021 Journal opinion piece. “The breach of the Capitol is a stain on American history, and Silicon Valley seized on the attack to do what Congress couldn’t by suppressing the kind of political speech the First Amendment was designed to protect.”
In a brief interview with ABC News, Ramaswamy said he would have handled Jan. 6 differently from Trump — but said he does not blame the former president for the riot.
“It is false and it is a mistake to blame Jan. 6 on Donald Trump,” he said.
Ramaswamy said his comments condemning Trump in the days after the riot were about how he handled Jan. 6, telling ABC News, “What I would have done? … Starting that day under the same circumstances, I would have said, as soon as there are people violently approaching the Capitol, ‘Stand down.'”
“Standing by while protesters turned violent, I think was a bad mistake of leadership,” he said, while reiterating, “I don’t think Donald Trump was the cause of Jan. 6.”
However in his 2022 book, “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence,” Ramaswamy sharply criticized the former president for not conceding the election.
“It was a dark day for democracy. The loser of the last election refused to concede the race, claimed the election was stolen, raised hundreds of millions of dollars from loyal supporters, and is considering running for executive office again.” Ramaswamy wrote. “I’m referring, of course, to Donald Trump.”
He wrote that Trump “filed scores of lawsuits over various claims of fraud … but they came nowhere close to changing the outcome in a single state, let alone the several swing states whose results he needed to overturn.”
“In many cases, judges the president himself had nominated ruled against him, a sign of health in our nation’s institutions,” Ramaswamy wrote. “Accepting the outcomes of elections and having a peaceful transition of power is part of what it means to be a constitutional republic: Sometimes your team loses, but if you accept the result and prepare for the next election, eventually the scales will tip your way again.”
“We fought, we lost, and I accepted the result,” he wrote.
When asked about his comments in “Nation of Victims” condemning Trump’s election claims, Ramaswamy said he stands by his words, but also said, “I think the 2020 election was stolen in a limited sense.” The entrepreneur claimed the “2020 election would have been different if the Hunter Biden laptop story had not been suppressed.”
On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy has largely rallied to Trump’s side. He made headlines last month when he held a press conference in Miami in which he defended the former president after Trump was indicted over his handling classified documents — vowing to pardon Trump and calling on other candidates to promise to do so as well.
The former president himself seems to have taken notice, shouting out Ramaswamy during his remarks in Florida this weekend at the conservative Turning Point USA conference.
“[Gov. Ron DeSantis] is dropping so quickly, he’s probably not going to be in second place much longer. I wonder who is going to be? Maybe it’s Vivek? … he’s doing well,” Trump told the crowd.
Ramaswamy’s campaign has proven effective, boosting the political novice to fourth in the polls just behind former Vice President Mike Pence and leapfrogging several current and former governors.
Ramaswamy raised more than $7.7 million in the second quarter of the year, including lending his campaign $5 million from his own personal fortune. He finished the quarter with more than $9 million on hand.
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