A day after GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy argued that The Atlantic used a quote from him about 9/11 conspiracies that was flat-out “wrong,” The Atlantic pushed back by publishing the audio of his remarks.
Ramaswamy’s campaign, however, claimed the audio still showed he was “taken badly out of context” and they called for the publication to release even more recordings “so that the full context and reality is exposed.”
During an interview with CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins on Monday evening, the rising Republican star was asked about his suggestion that federal agents may have been involved in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier that day, The Atlantic had published writer John Hendrickson’s profile of Ramaswamy, which included the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur expressing skepticism about the federal government by seemingly floating conspiracies about 9/11 and the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Asked by Hendrickson what Ramaswamy meant about how “we can handle the truth about January 6” and what exact “truth” he was getting at, Ramaswamy quickly invoked the 9/11 terror attack.
“I think it is legitimate to say, How many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers?” Ramaswamy was quoted as saying in the Atlantic article.
“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,” he added. “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.”
However, when Collins grilled him on those comments, Ramaswamy insisted he had been misquoted by the author.
“This is funny, The Atlantic is playing the same game as CNN,” he groused. “What I said is on January 6, I do believe that there were many federal agents in the field and we deserve to know who they are. On 9/11, what I’ve said is that the government lied and this is incontrovertible evidence, Kaitlan. The government lied about Saudi Arabia’s involvement.”
After the CNN host wondered if he was claiming the “quote was wrong” about agents on planes on 9/11, Ramaswamy replied: “I’m telling you the quote is wrong, actually.” He went on to say he had a “free-flowing conversation” with Hendrickson before again asserting he had been “misquoted” by the reporter.
“This is just lifting the curtain on how media works again,” Ramaswamy declared on Monday night.
Following the interview with Collins, a campaign spokesperson told The Hill that Ramaswamy “was referring to Jan. 6, not 9/11,” and that his “real question” was “about undercover federal agents on Jan. 6, 2021, not 9/11.” In a call with Semafor’s Shelby Talcott, Ramaswamy said that the quote in The Atlantic wasn’t “exactly what I said.”
On Tuesday, however, The Atlantic published the unedited audio file of Ramaswamy and Hendrickson speaking, along with a transcript of their conversation. And it did show that, despite his claims otherwise, it was indeed what he said.
“The quote is correct,” Hendrickson flatly noted.
Despite The Atlantic releasing an audio recording of more than four minutes of Ramaswamy’s conversation with Hendrickson and transcribing the pair’s remarks, Ramaswamy’s campaign somehow declared victory.
“We are grateful that the Atlantic released the audio after we repeatedly asked them to do so. The audio clearly demonstrates that Vivek was taken badly out of context and even this small snippet proves that,” campaign spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin said in a statement. “We continue to encourage the Atlantic to release more of the recording, rather than their carefully selected snippet, so that full context and reality is exposed.”
However, even Fox News, which has seemingly gone all-in on Ramaswamy in recent weeks, didn’t appear to buy his excuse that the liberal media was misrepresenting his remarks.
During a Tuesday afternoon interview with anchor Martha MacCallum, who is also co-moderating Wednesday night’s GOP primary debate, Ramaswamy contended that The Atlantic “purposefully scripted out something taken in a different context.”
“Well, we did play your soundbite from there,” MacCallum retorted.
Weighing in a short time later, MacCallum’s fellow debate moderator Bret Baier also pointed out that despite Ramaswamy claiming that “wasn’t the quote he said,” MacCallum actually “played the quote from The Atlantic.”
This isn’t the first time Ramaswamy’s landed himself in hot water by suggesting the federal government may have carried out 9/11.
During an interview with far-right outlet The Blaze earlier this month, Ramaswamy seemingly attempted to appeal to conspiratorial Trump voters by entertaining the notion that 9/11 was an “inside job” by the U.S. government. He would later walk back those comments, claiming he “absolutely” doesn’t believe the terror attacks were an “inside job” and he was instead referencing the “unanswered questions about who knew about it in the Saudi government.”
As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump explained this week, “Ramaswamy’s entire shtick is a sort of intellectually polished version of what elevated Donald Trump in 2015, embracing popular conspiracy theories in the manner of Trump but attempting to rationalize them through rhetorical cleverness.” At the same time, he “got a little too cute” with his conflation of Jan. 6 and 9/11 and went a “little too far in elevating skepticism about the government.”