What Ramaswamy Said about Israel, Armenia, and ‘Financial and Corrupting Influences’ in U.S. Foreign Policy

National Review
Oct 13, 2023

On October 9, GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy sat down for a 25-minute interview with Tucker Carlson on Twitter where the main topic of discussion was Israel and U.S. foreign policy. Ramaswamy condemned the Hamas attack on Israel and defended Israel’s right to defend itself, but he also condemned most other U.S. politicians in both parties for “selective moral outrage” about war and terrorism overseas and said the foreign-policy positions of most Republicans and Democrats were dictated by money. As Alana Goodman reported on October 12 at the Washington Free Beacon

Vivek Ramaswamy criticized Republicans for their “selective moral outrage” at the mass terrorist attacks in Israel, and argued that politicians calling for a stronger military response against Hamas and Iran are driven by donor money.

The Republican presidential candidate questioned why his GOP opponents are not expressing similar outrage about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and accused them of “ignoring the interests of the U.S. right here at home.” Specifically, Ramaswamy, in an interview with Tucker Carlson, equated the influx of fentanyl over the southern border — a “genocide,” in Carlson’s estimation — with Hamas’s attack against Israel.

“The selective nature of ignoring certain other conflicts — even more importantly, ignoring the interests of the U.S. right here at home — is what irritates the heck out of me,” Ramaswamy told Carlson.

“It is shameful. And I think that there are, frankly, financial and corrupting influences that lead them exactly to speak the way they do, that’s just the hard truth,” he added.

Ramaswamy was apoplectic in response to Goodman’s article. “Anti-Semitism is morally outrageous. For this pathetic ‘journalist’ to suggest I believe otherwise and then pull quotes out of context from my discussions with @TuckerCarlson about Armenia & Ukraine is an outrageous, offensive lie,” he tweeted. Goodman replied:

On Thursday night, I spoke to Ramaswamy’s spokeswoman, Tricia McLaughlin, who condemned the Free Beacon, as well as National Review and Mediaite, for their reports on Ramaswamy’s remarks. “It’s a Jewish [sic] and antisemitic trope to say that Jews run the world for money. And so that is exactly what the National Review, that is exactly what the Free Beacon, and that’s exactly what Mediate are trying to push. That is not what Vivek said, and quite frankly it’s vile,” McLaughlin said.

Later in our conversation, McLaughlin told me: “It’s really like pretty disgusting and like journalistic malpractice, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there could be — we look at legal options because it’s ridiculous.” Asked what legal actions might be taken against whom, McLaughlin said she was “not going to get into that.”

Before speaking to McLaughlin, I watched the 25-minute Ramaswamy–Carlson interview (twice) and came away with the conclusion that Goodman’s article was fair and accurate. Readers can watch it in full here and judge for themselves: 

For those who don’t have a full 25 minutes, below are some longer excerpts that provide plenty of context.

About nine minutes into the video, Carlson said the terrorist attack on Israel was immoral, but “the conversation can’t be limited to right and wrong.” This exchange followed (emphasis added):

RAMASWAMY: If you want to ask the question of right and wrong, then open that Pandora’s box. I don’t favor doing this, but look at what’s happening with Azerbaijan and Armenia. You don’t really hear much about that now. Why? Because Azerbaijan’s lobby is about as effective as Ukraine’s is in Washington, D.C. So, this selective moral outrage I do think is a problem. 

CARLSON: […] Armenia-Azerbaijan—what is happening?

RAMASWAMY: What’s happening is an atrocity. I mean, you have people who are Armenians, largely Christians, six-figure numbers—100,000-120,000—being driven back to their country from a region that has long been a place they have called home, a lot of atrocities that aren’t even yet coming to light in Western media. But Azerbaijan has a lobby, a powerful lobby in Washington, DC. And I think a big part of what’s wrong in the United States today, Tucker— and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but it’s why I’m coming in as an outsider to this nonsense—is you have a system that is bought and paid for, both for the people who run on the Democratic ticket, people who run on the Republican ticket, and people who make those decisions in Washington, DC, that are effectively managed by, in this case, the Azerbaijan lobby that has a lid on discussing this conflict, which, as you pointed out, most Americans haven’t heard of. But you’ll hear endlessly about Russia’s incursion on Ukraine and having to stand on the right side. That’s a separate point where I reject that Ukraine is inherently good anyway, but even if it were a selective moral outrage in that case, but not another one in just a neighboring area that interfaces with Russia as well. So open that Pandora’s box around the world. I mean, look at much of Africa, look elsewhere, you’re going to find the ability to have selective moral outrage, but you only hear about it in certain selective cases that the media and the existing establishment in both parties deem fit for the American public. And what we need is leaders in this country who are honest in calling out atrocities where they occur. What happened in Israel was wrong. I think we require leaders, some on the far left are too afraid to say it was wrong. But at the same time, we need leaders on the right who are willing to say in other places to like what’s happening in Azerbaijan and Armenia. 

The selective moral outrage that bothers Ramaswamy clearly seems to relate not only to Ukraine and Armenia but Israel and Armenia as well. 

Then Carlson brings the conversation back to moral outrage over the slaughter of innocent Israelis but says he doesn’t understand why “the scale of the outrage” among GOP presidential candidates isn’t the same about deaths in America from fentanyl illegally trafficked from Mexico. Ramaswamy agrees that “there is no level of moral outrage . . . in the Republican Party of the same scale of this incursion right here at home.”

Ramaswamy says later (emphasis added):

I think that it is important not to create an equivalence between Hamas and Israel, as some on the American left and European Left are trying to do. It is wrong what happened to Israel, and I call that out as a human being and as somebody who’s on a belief of some people are on the right side and the wrong side of a conflict. I think that that is far clearer here than it is, for example, in the Russia-Ukraine conflict or other areas where people have baked that cake. But the selective nature of ignoring certain other conflicts, while even more importantly, ignoring the interests of the U.S. right here at all, is what irritates the heck out of me out of the politicians in both parties, and it is shameful. And I think that there are frankly, financial and corrupting influences that lead them exactly to speak the way they do. That’s just the hard truth.

As you can see in the paragraph above, Ramaswamy explicitly mentions both Israel and Ukraine and implicitly refers back to Armenia (“ignoring certain other conflicts”), and then he says that “financial and corrupting influences” lead politicians in both parties “exactly to speak the way they do.” 

On Thursday night, I asked Ramaswamy’s spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin to explain exactly what Ramaswamy believes.

Ramaswamy believes that corrupt financial influence is dictating the position of most Republicans and Democrats supporting Ukraine, correct? “Yes,” McLaughlin replied.

And Ramaswamy believes corrupt financial influence explains why most politicians are not loudly expressing outrage over the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict? “He thinks Azerbaijan has a very strong lobbying influence, that’s correct,” McLaughlin replied.

But Ramaswamy believes corrupt financial influence does not explain why most politicians support Israel? “That is correct, because he’s saying there’s a very clear right and wrong here,” McLaughlin replied.

In other words, Ramaswamy’s current view appears to be that foreign-policy positions of almost all Republicans and Democrats are dictated by money on almost every issue — except Israel.

That spin is baffling. The topic of his Tucker Carlson interview was mainly Israel at first, before Ramaswamy focused on the lack of moral outrage about the Azerbaijan–Armenian conflict. And then Ramaswamy said American politicians speak “exactly the way they do” — meaning what they talk about and what they don’t talk about — because of corrupting financial influences. There was no special carveout for Israel from this accusation in his Carlson interview, but there apparently is now. 

The logic of Ramaswamy’s current position is also baffling. Does Ramaswamy think that Israel has a weaker lobby than Ukraine and Azerbaijan? “I don’t know the answer to that question,” McLaughlin said. “He’s never brought up the lobbying influences of Israel.” According to OpenSecrets, pro-Israel lobbying is about $4 million a year — that’s 0.1 percent of all lobbying expenditures. Azerbaijan spends about $480,000 — about 0.01 percent of all lobbying expenditures. Both amounts are a pittance. But Russian interests, OpenSecrets reported in February 2022, “reported spending about $182 million on lobbying, foreign influence operations and propaganda in the U.S. since 2016.”

As for Ramaswamy’s complaints about “selective moral outrage” with regard to Ukraine, Israel, and Armenia, I told McLaughlin I couldn’t find any tweets or press releases from Ramaswamy mentioning the Azerbaijan–Armenia conflict, which erupted on September 19, before his October 9 interview with Tucker Carlson. She didn’t identify any tweets or press releases but said he had spoken about it on the campaign trail. Asked for an example, she pointed me to his YouTube page.