A two-decade-old clip has resurfaced, showing a young Vivek Ramaswamy challenging then-Democrat 2004 presidential candidate Al Sharpton about his qualifications to hold the high executive office, noting Mr. Sharpton had never before held public office. The clip comes back now as Mr. Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old businessman who has never held public office, is now running to be the next president.
“Of all the Democratic candidates out there, why should I vote for the one with the least political experience?” Mr. Ramaswamy, then an 18-year-old Harvard student, asked during a 2003 MSNBC townhall-style interview with Mr. Sharpton.
Mr. Sharpton was appearing on MSNBC after the network had hosted townhall interviews with then-Senators John Edwards and John Kerry, who were also running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. Answering as to why someone should vote for a candidate with the least political experience, Mr. Sharpton elicited laughter from the crowd by responding, “well, you shouldn’t,” suggesting it was others, rather than him, who had the least political experience, despite him never having held public office.
“I have the most political experience,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I got involved in the political movement when I was 12 years old. And I’ve been involved in social policy for the last 30 years, so don’t confuse people that have a job with political experience.”
Mr. Sharpton had multiple unsuccessful political campaigns prior to his 2004 presidential run, and had been involved in numerous social justice causes since the 1970s.
Mr. Sharpton went further in answering Mr. Ramaswamy’s question about political experience, suggesting then-President George W. Bush had held office prior to becoming the president, but that he wasn’t necessarily experienced enough to lead as the president.
“As we have seen with the present occupant in the White House, George Bush was a governor and clearly has shown he doesn’t have political experience,” Mr. Sharpton said.
Mr. Ramaswamy was actually the one to bring up his 2003 exchange with Mr. Sharpton, during an Aug. 17 interview with Time magazine. Mr. Ramaswamy could not recall the exact details of the question he asked Mr. Sharpton, but just over a day after Time magazine made note of the exchange, others on social media platform X began posting a clip of the exchange.
Mr. Ramaswamy shared the 2003 clip of his question for Mr. Sharpton in a post on the X social media platform on Monday night.
“I’ll give the 18-year-old version of myself a pat-on-the-back for eliciting the most sensible words ever to come from that man’s mouth,” Mr. Ramaswamy wrote, referring to Mr. Sharpton. “20 years later, it’s funny how the tables have turned.”
Ramaswamy Questioned About His Experience
The 2003 footage resurfaced just days before Mr. Ramaswamy appeared center stage on Aug. 23 as one of the top candidates in the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate. During the debate, Mr. Ramaswamy’s fellow Republican presidential candidates took their own swipes at his relative lack of direct political experience.
“[President Joe Biden] has weakened this country at home and abroad. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie. We don’t need to bring in people without experience,” former Vice President Mike Pence said in a series of remarks directed at Mr. Ramaswamy.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took another swipe at Mr. Ramaswamy’s political experience during the debate, saying the 38-year-old businessman reminded him of President Barack Obama, adding “I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur standing on the stage tonight.”
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who also served for about two years as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, criticized Mr. Ramaswamy during another exchange at the Aug. 23 debate. After Mr. Ramaswamy expressed his opposition to continued U.S. support for the war in Ukraine, Ms. Haley said “You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.”
Fox News host and debate moderator Bret Baier directly asked Mr. Ramaswamy, “Why should voters choose you over more experienced politicians on this stage? You’re basically a blank slate for people.” Mr. Ramaswamy answered by citing his experience as a successful businessman and argued that the Republican Party needs “an outsider.”