Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat who called Donald Trump “the grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” stood by his earlier statements on Wednesday, but stopped short of calling the president a racist, CNN is reporting.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Jeffries — speaking to the civil rights organization National Action Network during a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event on Monday — compared Donald Trump to the head of the Ku Klux Klan.
“These are challenging times in the United States of America. We have a hater in the White House: the birther in chief, the Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
He went on to suggest that Jim Crow may be dead, but his “nieces and nephews” are alive and well in America, referring to the pre-civil rights era during which time laws systematically oppressed blacks.
Jeffries wasn’t the only Democrat to equate Trump with racism on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that Trump represented “a giant step back” for progress on racial equality, an agenda item for which King had fought so hard. And freshman New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she felt there was “no question” that Trump himself was “a racist.”
On Wednesday, Jeffries was given the chance — by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota — to clarify his Monday remarks. Camerota asked Jeffries directly if he regretted “going that far” in his comments made on Monday. Jeffries didn’t equivocate in his answer.
“Not at all. We’ve got to have an opportunity for at least one day a year to have a candid, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race.”
He did, however, walk back his remarks somewhat, saying that he doesn’t believe that Trump is a “card-carrying member” of the KKK.
As for claims that he said the president was racist, Jeffries noted that he never actually used that word in describing Trump. He also says that, though he doesn’t believe that Trump is a racist, Trump has “presided over and engaged in directly a series of racially insensitive remarks.”
“Wolf Blitzer in the past has asked me whether I believe the president is a racist and I’ve consistently said no. But it did capture a troubling pattern of racially insensitive and outrageous at times behavior that spans not months, not years, but decades.”
Jeffries then pointed to a series of allegations against Trump that, by some measures, appear to point to underlying racism. He cited Trump famously referring to “very fine people on both sides” following a racially-charged murder in Charlottesville, Virginia — and to Trump having famously promoted the “birther” conspiracy theory that claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.