“Anti-woke” businessman Vivek Ramaswamy announced his campaign for president on Tucker Carlson’s show in February. He was scheduled to return on Monday night only to find out Carlson had been fired. Shortly afterwards, Don Lemon announced he had been fired the same day at CNN — in part, according to The New York Times, over an interview with Ramaswamy last week that went off the rails.
By the evening, Ramaswamy was being floated in media circles as a potential replacement for Carlson, while Ramaswamy floated Carlson as a potential presidential candidate. And he still went on Fox News in Carlson’s until-now 8 PM slot, with Brian Kilmeade filling in.
All of this is to say, it’s been some time for Ramaswamy, who somehow seems to be at the center of the Category 5 storm that made landfall on the media and political landscape Monday.
In an interview with Semafor at the tail end of his whirlwind day (which began around 5:45 am Central Time), Ramaswamy — with what sounded like dishes clanking in the background — said he remained “absolutely committed” to running, despite talk about succeeding Carlson in the primetime slot.
“There have been some contacts and media reports that have reached out to me about that today,” he said. “I’m doing what I feel called to do right now, is the answer. A presidential run is something that you don’t do lightly.”
And as for his comments to Politico that Carlson would be a good addition to the 2024 presidential race? He reiterated that stance to Semafor, while maintaining that he believes he is — and would remain — the best person for the job, even if the former Fox News host jumped into the field.
“I’m the best equipped to actually deliver national unity and win in a landslide election. I think those are all facts,” Ramaswamy said. “If there was somebody else who I thought would do better, I’d be encouraging them to do it instead.”
Ramaswamy’s CNN interview last week sparked a days-long media frenzy within conservative circles after Lemon launched into a contentious on-air debate and suggested the 2024 candidate could not speak on Black history because of “whatever ethnicity” he was. “I’m an Indian American, I’m proud of it, but I think we should have this debate: Black, white doesn’t matter,” Ramaswamy calmly responded.
When news of Lemon’s firing broke shortly after news of Carlson’s departure from Fox on Monday, Ramaswamy said in a video that he felt the network “made a sound decision by finally terminating” the liberal commentator.
Ramaswamy told Semafor he wasn’t “happy” about the news, and understood that the conservative pile-on over Lemon’s comments might be seen as an example of the “cancel culture” they so often decry. But he maintained that under CNN’s new leadership, the company has sought to welcome a broader range of perspectives, and Lemon’s behavior was out of sync with that goal.
“Does Don Lemon have the freedom to say that to me? Absolutely, right? That’s free speech culture,” he said. “But if your mission as an organization is to foster the open debate and exchange of ideas: Does that further or advance that culture or not? I think it’s a not.”
- Ramaswamy wasn’t the only 2024 candidate connected to the day’s events. Another stop on the way to Lemon’s ouster occurred during a discussion of Nikki Haley’s call for mental competency tests for all presidential candidates over the age of 75 — Lemon claimed at the time that Haley was not “in her prime.” The incident prompted so much backlash that Lemon issued an apology and began receiving “formal training.” Haley tweeted on Monday after Lemon’s firing that it was “a great day for women everywhere.”