A 2003 MSNBC video has resurfaced of a young Vivek Ramaswamy asking Rev. Al Sharpton about his lack of political experience during Sharpton’s run for the 2004 Democratic nomination. The footage has spread on social media as people, including Ramaswamy’s Republican primary opponents, question the candidate’s own lack of experience in professional politics. Ramaswamy’s background is in business.
Ramaswamy, then an 18-year-old Harvard student, was questioning Sharpton at an October 2003 event hosted by former MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews. Ramaswamy began, “Hello, I’m Vivek, and I want to ask you: last week on the show we had Sen. Kerry, and the week before, we had Sen. Edwards. And my question for you is, of all the Democratic candidates out there, why should I vote for the one with the least political experience?”
Sharpton fired back, “Well, you shouldn’t, because I have the most political experience,” to approving laughter from the crowd.
The civil rights activist is set to interview Ramaswamy this Saturday on his MSNBC show “Politics Nation,” but Sharpton appeared on Friday’s “Deadline White House” to talk about the video and the context of his response.
“I want to know, does he now understand that having political experience does not mean you hold a political office?” Sharpton said in a rhetorical question. “I had been a civil rights activist for 20 years before then, holding positions in various parts of the [Martin Luther] King movement in the north. So social work and social policy had nothing to do with holding an office.”
Sharpton also criticized Ramaswamy for his support of former President Donald Trump.
“He supports Donald Trump, who’d never held political office before he became president,” Sharpton said.
MSNBC host Sharpton also promised to talk with Ramaswamy about policy.
“Deadline: White House” host Nicole Wallace added, “It feels like the real vetting of [Ramaswamy] is only just in its infancy. There’s not much beneath his slick surface.”
Watch Ramaswamy’s full 2003 interaction with Sharpton here, including Sharpton criticizing then-President George W. Bush:
Comparing Ramaswamy’s approach to politics to Trump, Wallace asked Sharpton about how he thinks that will work out.
“First of all, I think that he ought to learn a marketing lesson, and that is, why would people buy a knockoff if the original is still available?” Sharpton said. “So imitating Trump, while Trump is still in the campaign, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Sharpton added that he feels Ramaswamy is underestimating the intelligence of Republican primary voters, arguing that Ramaswamy hasn’t laid out the policies that he stands for.
“We understand what DeSantis stands for. We don’t agree with it, many of us, but we know what he stands for,” Sharpton said. “Vivek so far has stood for Vivek. And what is that? How is that?”
In a joking reference to the height and weight Trump gave while being booked in one of the multiple trials against him, “Donald Trump, whether he knows it or not, is still around, and is still a candidate — all 6-foot-3, 215 pounds of him.”
You can watch the full MSNBC clip above, including comments on Ramaswamy from panelist Charlie Sykes of conservative site The Bulwark. Sharpton’s interview with Ramaswamy will be Saturday on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation.”