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An exchange between presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and CNN anchor Abby Phillip got heated when the journalist asked him whether he believed the term “vermin” to be neo-Nazi rhetoric.
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our county,” Mr Trump said.
Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie said the language echoed remarks the Nazis made against their political enemies.
“When Donald Trump compares his domestic political opponents to vermin — language that those of us who know history is equated with the worst of Nazi Germany — and suggests that they pose a greater threat to our nation than China or Russia or Iran or North Korea… he is fundamentally unserious,” Mr Christie said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Instead of directly answering the question, Mr Ramaswamy lashed out at Phillip.
“This is a classic mainstream media move,” he said during an interview on Wednesday. “Pick some individual phrase of Donald Trump, focus on literally that word without actually interrogating the substance or what’s at issue.
“You have Antifa and other related groups that have been burning down cities for the last three years in this county,” he continued.
“We have an invasion on our southern border, we have millions of people crossing our southern border, let’s talk about the substance of why we have to recognize that we’re not in ordinary times.”
When asked if he’d use that language himself, the candidate became defensive.
“I haven’t used that language, you can look at my track record on the campaign trail,” he said, before uttering the phrase moments later.
“You know what’s vermin, what’s running around San Francisco a given day before Gavin Newsom (Democratic California governor) cleaned it up on a dime to roll out the red carpet for Xi Jinping,” he said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit being held in the city this week.
“This is what’s wrong with the mainstream media,” Mr Ramaswamy added. “Focus on the substance and let’s have an actual policy debate.
“Instead of the policy substance of what’s going on in the country, picking on some word that Donald Trump said on a certain day and asking me for comment on it, give me a break.”