This summer, I set out to write about Vivek Ramaswamy because I thought that his public-speaking skills set him apart from his GOP presidential rivals. Whereas most candidates were struggling to find their lane, Ramaswamy knew exactly what he was offering: a message that seemed to be libertarian at its core, paired with views that were consistent with more extreme corners of the right. Ramaswamy’s team agreed to participate in the profile.
Ramaswamy let me shadow him over the course of three days at the end of July. I visited his Ohio campaign headquarters and got a behind-the-scenes view of several of his media appearances. He brought me to his home and introduced me to his family. I flew aboard a private jet with him and rode on his campaign bus in Iowa.
Over the three days, Ramaswamy and I had regular conversations—sometimes in short bursts, other times in longer sit-down sessions. Last night, in an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, he used the phrase free-flowing to describe our interactions. Our discussions were often challenging, but they were always respectful. With Ramaswamy’s permission, and in keeping with standard journalistic practice, I recorded all of our interviews.
During our final interview aboard his campaign bus, I brought up one of his more explosive claims—a suggestion that we don’t know “the truth” about January 6. I asked him: What is the truth about January 6 that you’re referring to? His answer went down a curious path, invoking the investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks, among other topics. At one point, he said this to me: “I think it is legitimate to say, How many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers? Like, I think we want—maybe the answer is zero, probably is zero for all I know, right?”
Yesterday, after The Atlantic published my story and his comments about 9/11 and January 6 drew attention, Ramaswamy told Semafor that the quote we published wasn’t “exactly what I said.” Last night, asked by CNN’s Collins about the same quote, Ramaswamy said, “I’m telling you the quote is wrong, actually.”
The quote is correct.
Here is the unedited audio and a transcript of our exchange about 9/11 and January 6.
John Hendrickson: When you talk about all the things, We can handle the truth about X, you know, and you list off a bunch of stuff—one of them that you said last night is: We can handle the truth about January 6. What is the truth about January 6 that you’re referring to?
Vivek Ramaswamy: I don’t know, but we can handle it. Whatever it is, we can handle it. Government agents. How many government agents were in the field? Right?
Hendrickson: You mean like entrapment?
Ramaswamy: Yeah. Absolutely. Why can the government not be transparent about something that we’re using? Terrorists, or the kind of tactics used to fight terrorists. If we find that there are hundreds of our own in the ranks on the day that they were, that they were—I mean, look …
Hendrickson: Well, there’s a difference between entrapment and a difference between a law-enforcement agent identifying—
Ramaswamy: I think it is legitimate to say, How many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers? 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. 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.
Well, if we’re doing a January 6 commission, absolutely, those should be questions that we should get to the bottom of. And there can’t be hush-hush, separate, it shouldn’t be outside the commission, leaked to some media personality the hours of footage. No, this is transparent. These are the doors that were open. Here are the people that opened the doors, to whom? Here are the people who were armed. Here are the people who were unarmed. What percentage of the people who were armed were federal law-enforcement officers? I think it was probably high, actually. Right? There’s very little evidence of people being arrested for being armed that day. Most of the people who were armed, I assume the federal officers who were out there were armed. And so, I don’t know the answers. We deserve to know the answers, right?
We did a Jan. 6 commission. There are certain questions you can ask. We did a 9/11 commission, and if there are federal agents on the plane we deserve to know. And if we’re doing a Jan. 6 commission and there are federal officers in the field, we deserve to know. Just tell us the truth. Tell us what happened.
And it’s not just that, right? I think it’s also the reflective, the reflection on the truth about the underlying motivations of people. What were the sources of the frustration? Right? Is it really just, Donald Trump riled them up in an eight-week period? Or are these people who have been lied to and suppressed for a longer period of time? I think it’s clearly the latter, right? And I think that the failure to recognize the whole truth—we want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s, that’s really, when I say we deserve—and I don’t think we’ve gotten it on any of those questions. On the Jeffrey Epstein client list, on unidentified flying objects, on January 6, on vaccine—on COVID-19 vaccine—on the origin of the pandemic, which we now know, by the way, systematic efforts by people who had no idea what the origin was to shoot down the origin. And I remember this at the time there were people in sort of the, uh, like, in the sort of the greater Harvard/MIT space, the Broad Institute and otherwise, who were sort of talking about, Well, there’s a decent chance it could have, but we should be careful about talking about this or It could undermine, erosion of trust in science. There’s no such thing as a noble lie. That’s my view. The noble lie is nonexistent. No lie is noble.
Hendrickson: I think it’s interesting to compare and contrast 9/11 and January 6.
Ramaswamy: Oh, yeah. I don’t think they belong in the same conversation. I’m only bringing it up because it was … I am not making the comparison. I think it’s a ridiculous comparison—
Hendrickson: I’m not comparing—
Ramaswamy: But I’m saying that I brought it up only because it was invoked as a basis for the Jan. 6 commission.
Hendrickson: Of course. What I’m saying, though, is that I think Democrats and Republicans would agree that 9/11 is a day that’s like Pearl Harbor day, where there are good guys and bad guys and America was attacked. I mean, I think that’s very clear—
Ramaswamy: I mean, I would take the truth about 9/11. I mean, I am not questioning what we—this is not something I’m staking anything out on. But I want the truth about 9/11.