Vivek Ramaswamy struggles to explain his comments on ‘abhorrent’ Trump behaviour in combative TV interview

Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy continues to skirt away from his past criticism of Donald Trump as he seeks to win the 2024 GOP nomination with Mr Trump leading the race.

Mr Ramaswamy appeared on MSNBC to answer questions from Medhi Hasan, who peppered the entrepreneur and surging political newcomer with questions about remarks he had made about Donald Trump in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 assault on Congress.

At the time, Mr Ramaswamy had tweeted, alongside the publication of an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, that “what Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent”.

But on Wednesday, Mr Ramaswamy was repeatedly unwilling to explain what he meant by that.

The two went back and forth several times, as Mr Ramawamy evaded answering what Mr Trump had specifically done that was “abhorrent” — instead, he offered what he would have done instead, what Mr Trump should have said in his now-famous address to the rioters, and other quips.

“That’s not what I asked, Vivek,” an exasperated Hasan repeated.

Mr Ramaswamy would offer again: “What did I think was reprehensible about what happened that day? Look, I think that the way a true leader should have handled that situation should have been to actually say-” before he was cut off for dodging the question once more.

“I understand, you keep saying what you would have done, I just want to hear from your mouth, unless you’re scared of him. Why won’t you say what he did that was ‘downright abhorrent?’”

Mr Ramaswamy directly refused — “I’m not going to.”

Vivek Ramawamy and Donald Trump (AP)
Vivek Ramawamy and Donald Trump (AP)

His strongest criticism of Mr Trump was to point out the staggeringly obvious — that Mr Trump had failed to “unite” the country.

“I believe that failing to unite this country falls short of what a true leader ought to do. That is why I’m in this race, is to do things differently than any prior president has done them. That’s the hard truth,” he said.

Few people were expecting Donald Trump to unite the country on January 6, as his supporters stormed the seat of US democracy and hunted lawmakers (and Mr Trump’s own vice president) through the halls. Many, however, expected (or at least hoped) that he would call in the DC National Guard, which is the only such division of the Guard to report directly to the president.

The call for backup came four hours before National Guard troops finally arrived on the scene during the attack.

Mr Ramaswamy continues to battle for second place in the ongoing Republican primary, while Mr Trump remains the party’s de facto leader and the clear frontrunner for the 2024 nomination.

A number of candidates in the race, and in particular Mr Ramaswamy, have been accused of angling for Cabinet positions under a second Trump presidency as they by and large avoid any serious criticism of their supposed rival.