Vivek Ramaswamy, one of the declared candidates for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, Sunday took on both former President Donald Trump, for his call to forego the GOP primary debates, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, over his ongoing battle with Disney.
"One of the things I say to conservative audiences across the country is we have to be the party of free speech and open debate," Ramaswamy told NBC's "Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd. "We can't be the party that ... says, 'I won't talk to you.' I'm here talking to you on NBC. There are other candidates in this race that say they won't talk to NBC News. Ron DeSantis is one of them."
He added that he wants to see "other Republicans rise to that occasion and do better starting with the debate stage in our own party this fall," and that means Trump as well.
"I'm not going to let him get away with that," said Ramaswamy.
"I don't think the other candidates, including Donald Trump, are going to relish being on that debate stage with me," he said. "I think that the way that he's shown in 2015, what people gave him credit for was that he was an outsider and a disruptor. I'm the outsider in this race. And I think that if you want to be part of, like Joe Biden, in an existing establishment that doesn't want to debate, I think people are hungry for new blood."
And Ramaswamy said that he believes it's his job, and that of the other candidates, "to tell voters that if you want someone sitting across the table from Xi Jinping, if you want someone with the spine to take on the administrative state — it's the top of my domestic agenda — you better darn well not be scared to show up on a debate stage with the new challenger."
As for DeSantis, who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy later in May, Ramaswamy said the governor has "really lost it here" with his pushback against Disney.
Ramaswamy told Todd he does agree that "Disney should have never had crony-capitalist, lobbying-related privileges in the first place, but that one of those privileges was codified into law by DeSantis in 2021.
"So Florida passed this political anti-discrimination statute, which I applauded at the time," said Ramaswamy. "It said if you operate internet companies — this includes streaming services like Disney does — that you can't engage in viewpoint discrimination. Now here’s the funny dirty little secret of that. They wrote a last-minute exception into that law for anyone who also operates a theme park of more than 25 acres in the state of Florida. That's crony capitalism."
And DeSantis, "who's now railing against crony capitalism and rolling that back, was the one who actually passed that into law for the case of Disney," said Ramaswamy. "I think that undermines the credibility of his crusade. I prefer to get to root causes rather than doing political stunts."
Ramaswamy, who is basing his campaign on "anti-wokeism," told Todd that he is seeing an opportunity to "revive our national identity," and to "revive the ideals that set this nation into motion."
And when Todd asked him how that can square away with most of the population, Ramaswamy denied that he is "denigrating the views of half the country."
"Let's take the touchiest of those subjects right now, on the trans issue," he said. "I think that when a kid says that 'I'm born into the wrong body,' that 'my gender doesn't match my biological sex,' more often than not, that is a case of a mental health disorder. That doesn't mean you disrespect that person. It means they're crying out for help ... what we need to do on both sides here is act with compassion, not really what makes us feel good about ourselves. And I think that's my main issue across what our response to transgenderism."
He also pointed out that there are no states that allow people under the age of 18 to make "body-altering" changes that they may regret later in life, like getting a tattoo or smoking cigarettes.
"I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that if you're after 18 years old, you're free to decide whatever you want to do. That's what it means to live in a free country," he said. "But below the age ... of 18, I think it's perfectly legitimate to say that we won't allow genital mutilation or chemical castration through puberty blockers for the purpose of transition."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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