Vivek Ramaswamy, Indian-American biotech entrepreneur, sparked controversy by calling Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “Nazi” and a “comedian in cargo pants” during the third GOP debate in Miami on Wednesday night.
Ramaswamy, who has been trailing behind former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley in the polls, made the inflammatory remarks when he was asked if he supported additional funding for Ukraine as requested by President Joe Biden.Ramaswamy said he was “absolutely unpersuaded” by the pleas for aid from Zelenskyy.
“Ukraine is not a paragon of democracy,” Ramaswamy said. “This is a country that has banned 11 opposition parties. It has consolidated all media into one state TV media arm. That’s not democratic. It has threatened not to hold elections this year unless the US forks over more money.”
He then proceeded to attack Zelenskyy personally, saying he was “a comedian in cargo pants” and implying he was a “Nazi” in his own ranks. “Those are the hard facts and some have framed this as some kind of battle between good versus evil. Don’t buy it,” he said.
Ramaswamy also mentioned the incident in the Canadian Parliament where the veteran was honored, which led to the resignation of the Canadian House Speaker.
His comments drew sharp criticism from another Nikki Haley, who defended Zelenskyy and accused Ramaswamy of undermining US allies and appeasing adversaries. Haley, another Indian-American presidential hopeful, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were “salivating” at the thought of Ramaswamy becoming president. She also mocked his lack of political experience, saying he was “a little bit dumber” for what he said.
Ramaswamy lashed out at Haley for her more hawkish foreign policy stance.
“Do you want a leader from a different generation who’s going to put this country first? Or do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels? In which case, we’ve got two of ‘em on stage tonight,” Ramaswamy said, invoking the former vice president.
“They’re 5-inch heels,” Haley retorted, adding: “I don’t wear ‘em unless I can run in ’em.”
The other candidates on stage, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, tried to stay above the fray and focus on their own agendas. The debate, moderated by NBC News, covered topics such as the economy, immigration, health care, climate change, abortion, education and the 2023 midterm elections, where Republicans suffered losses in several key states.
The debate was the last one before the Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the nominating process, which will take place on January 3, 2024. The candidates will have to compete for the support of the Republican voters, who will ultimately decide who will face off against President Joe Biden or his Democratic challenger in the general election.
(With inputs from agencies)

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