GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy called Juneteenth a “useless” holiday during a campaign event with voters in Iowa on Saturday.
Ramaswamy’s remarks, first reported by NBC News, come after he celebrated the holiday June 19 earlier this year, saying it is about honoring how far the country has come and how people can advance through hard work, commitment and dedication.
He called for a range of proposals concerning the country’s elections Saturday, including that all voting happens on one day, having all paper ballots and declaring Election Day a national holiday instead of one of the “useless” ones.
“Cancel Juneteenth or one of the other useless ones we made up,” Ramaswamy said. “You can’t have everything be a holiday, but we’ll cancel one of the other ones and make Election Day a holiday.”
NBC asked Ramaswamy after his remarks to clarify if he believes Juneteenth is a useless holiday, and he responded, “I basically do.” He said he does not consider holidays such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day to be useless.
Ramaswamy said he stands with the “presumption of time-tested traditions,” but the “spirit” of Juneteenth is already represented with holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents’ Day.
“We shouldn’t have redundant holidays that celebrate overlapping purposes. It should have a distinct purpose,” he said.
While Martin Luther King Jr. Day recognizes the contributions of the Civil Rights leader toward equality and Presidents’ Day honors the country’s leaders, Juneteenth celebrates the anniversary of the last U.S. slaves being freed in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, following the end of the Civil War.
President Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a national holiday in 2021 after the legislation received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.
Ramaswamy argued Juneteenth was made a holiday under “political duress” following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which he said is not “how we should create holidays.”
“We should not create holidays with a cultural gun to our head, and that’s what happened with Juneteenth,” he said.
He has railed against a focus on diversity during his presidential run as he calls for an emphasis on people coming together and recognizing how they are similar.
NBC reported former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), another presidential candidate, slammed Ramaswamy’s remarks for calling to “cancel a holiday that celebrates equality and freedom.”