Republican 2024 presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy has been condemned for using trans people as “scapegoats” during an interview about the rising tide of racially-motivated violence in the wake of the Jacksonville mass shooting.
Several GOP presidential candidates – including Mike Pence and Tim Scott – have lamented the Saturday (26 August) shooting that killed three Black people in a racist attack in Jacksonville, Florida.
Pence called the fatal shooting an “act of evil” and Scott said there’s “nothing more hateful than murdering someone because of the colour of their skin”, while Florida governor Ron DeSantis described the attack as “totally unacceptable”.
Ramaswamy, however, used his time speaking to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd on Sunday (27 August) to pivot from speaking about the shooting to talking about trans people.
Todd asked what the 38-year-old entrepreneur would do about the rise in racially-motivated violence in the US if he became president. Ramaswamy said he believed every “every criminal deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, especially when they’re carrying out premeditated crimes like this one”.
He then deflected questions about the racist manifestos uncovered by law enforcement in the Jacksonville shooting investigation by complaining about a double standard for writings by mass shooters.
Ramaswamy pointed to a shooting in March in Nashville, Tennessee where a shooter killed six people, including three children, at a Christian elementary school. Police said they would release the shooter’s writings only after their investigation was complete.
Officials have not said if this was a factor in the shooting.
“We still have not yet even seen the manifesto of that transgender shooter in Nashville of a Christian school, and yet here, we’re focusing on the motive,” Vivek Ramaswamy said.
“So, if we want to look at this through a politicised lens, let’s look at what the political media and the political establishment is doing differently in how they analyse different crimes and then create a new narrative around it.
“The fact is what I said in the Nashville shooter case I will say here. Any killing, any mass killing, is heinous.
“We need to get to the root cause of the mental health epidemic, address that. We need leadership that sets the right tone in this country.”
Ramaswamy described Saturday’s mass shooting as a “heinous crime” that “should not be happening in the United States of America”.
He then went on to say that he believes racism is “manufactured in a way that creates more racism” in the US, and the “last thing” he wanted to do is “throw kerosene” on the “last, burning embers of racism” by politicising racially-motivated violence.
Jacksonville authorities have said the three Black victims were killed in a “racially-motivated shooting” by a man who had detailed a “disgusting ideology of hate” in his writings.
Several people on social media, including trans activist and civil rights attorney Alejandra Caraballo, slammed Vivek Ramaswamy for using trans folks as “scapegoats”.
This is not the first time Ramaswamy has disparaged the LGBTQ+ community in his presidential campaign.
The long-shot presidential hopeful described the LGBTQ+ community as an “alphabet soup” that’s created a “tyranny of the minority”. In another interview, he claimed queer people wanted to “create an ‘us vs them’ destruction of modern order”.
He also said he would sign into law a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth if it reaches his desk in the White House and claimed in a video on X – formerly known as Twitter – that being trans is “social contagion of a mental health epidemic”.