Vivek Ramaswamy is seeking to clean up comments he made that appeared to cast doubt about the origins of the 9/11 attacks as part of an interview released just before the first GOP presidential debate.
Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old upstart GOP presidential candidate who had been riding a hot streak, said The Atlantic misquoted him and that he was referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and not the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he spoke of the involvement of federal agents.
“The truth is there are lies the government has told about 9/11, but it’s not the ones that somebody put in my mouth,” he said during a contentious interview Monday evening with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.
He separately told the news outlet Semafor the quote mentioned in The Atlantic article wasn’t “exactly what I said.”
In the quote in question, Ramaswamy said: “I think it is legitimate to say, ‘How many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers?’ Like, I think we want — maybe the answer is zero, probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero. But if we’re doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11, we have a 9/11 commission, absolutely that should be an answer the public knows the answer to.”
The context for that quote, part of an interview for The Atlantic conducted late last month but published Monday, was a discussion between Ramaswamy and reporter John Hendrickson that started with the GOP presidential candidate saying the public has not been told the “truth” about what happened during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Hendrickson then asked Ramaswamy if he was questioning if entrapment occurred during the riot. Ramaswamy said that he was and that the country should know if “hundreds of our own” government agents were present during the riot and played any role.
A spokesperson for Ramaswamy’s campaign told The Hill his discussion with Hendrickson was a “free-flowing conversation,” and they are not blaming Hendrickson, but his questions were about Jan. 6 and not 9/11.
Ramaswamy told Collins he believes many federal agents were “in the field” during Jan. 6, and the public should know who they are. He reiterated that he was misquoted by The Atlantic and also argued the federal government lied to the American public regarding the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11.
The report from the committee organized to investigate the attacks, known as the 9/11 Commission, stated that no evidence was found that the Saudi government or senior Saudi leaders were involved in funding al Qaeda, even though wealthy citizens in the country have been considered primary sponsors of the terrorist group.
The FBI released declassified documents in 2021 revealing the agency extensively investigated the amount of support that was given to Saudi nationals who participated in the attacks and alleged ties between the hijackers and Saudi nationals living in the U.S.
Ramaswamy later repeated his defense in an interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News on Tuesday. He said he “of course” does not believe that federal agents were on the hijacked planes during 9/11, but he has a “very different view” of Jan. 6.
MacCallum pressed Ramaswamy on if he was “equating” 9/11 with Jan. 6, and he said he was not and that Hendrickson initiated the topic by asking him about the in a “combined manner.”
But the audio recording from The Atlantic shows that Ramaswamy was the first in the conversation to mention the attacks, not Hendrickson.
“As you probably have experienced with the left-wing media as well, The Atlantic purposefully — really scripted out something that was taken in a very different context,” he told MacCallum.
The controversy comes as he is set to face off against seven other Republican presidential candidates for the first primary debate of the 2024 race. The entrepreneur has seen his stock rise in recent weeks with polls showing him gaining support, closing the gap with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
An Emerson College poll over the weekend showed Ramaswamy tied with DeSantis for second place nationally at 10 percent.
It is way too early to tell whether the 9/11 remarks will hurt Ramaswamy, who has cast himself as a millennial version of former President Trump and was already expected to come under attack from DeSantis and others on the debate stage given his rise in polls.
The new controversy is likely to come up Wednesday, either from a question by one of the debate’s moderators or another candidate.
This isn’t the first time Ramaswamy has raised questions about the Sept. 11 attacks.
These more recent remarks come after Ramaswamy made other comments on 9/11 earlier this month to Blaze TV, saying he does not believe the government “has told us the truth,” adding, “What I’ve seen in the last several years is we have to be skeptical of what the government does tell us.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, one of Ramaswamy’s rivals, denounced the remarks in an interview with a New Hampshire news outlet, saying they “deeply offended” him.
Ramaswamy responded with a long post on X, formerly known as Twitter, in which he alleged the 9/11 Commission “flatly lied” about possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.
—Updated at 3:45 p.m.