GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s latest attention-grabbing social media stunt not only triggered giggles from CNN staffers on Tuesday morning but prompted one pundit to call him the “biggest clown” in the Republican 2024 field.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s primary debate on Fox News, the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur posted a video of himself smashing tennis balls while shirtless, alongside a caption that read: “Three hours of solid debate prep this morning.” The topless tennis tweet came just days after it was reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ camp urged him to “hammer” Ramaswamy at the debate.
Ramaswamy’s campaign team, meanwhile, told The Daily Beast last week that the “anti-woke” crusader hasn’t devoted much time to debate preparation, instead focusing most of his time on campaigning and remaining a fixture on Fox News, local media, and other TV networks. Ramaswamy’s long-shot presidential bid has recently seen a surge in polls, placing him third in the race behind DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who is skipping Wednesday’s debate.
During Tuesday’s broadcast of CNN News Central, liberal CNN commentator Bakari Sellers dinged Trump for attempting to “counterprogram” Fox News’ debate by streaming a pre-taped interview with ex-Fox star Tucker Carlson on the site formerly known as Twitter.
“Just for the record, Donald Trump’s counter-programming is horrible,” Sellers declared. “I don’t think anybody is going to be watching Tucker Carlson on Twitter or X or whatever it is called now, and I don’t think anybody is going to be responsive to his ‘counter-programming.’”
With Trump currently polling at above 50 percent among GOP voters, Republican strategist Kevin Sheridan said that while Trump is “certainly not going to lose with his base” by not showing up for the debate, the “worst thing that could happen” for him is a candidate who emerges as a viable alternative and forces low-polling hopefuls to leave the race.
CNN anchor Kate Bolduan then took the opportunity to show a clip of Ramaswamy playing tennis shirtless, snarking that he is “sending a different kind of message” with his preparation for the debate. As the video played, several people off-camera were unable to hold in their laughter, prompting a giggling fit that the audience at home could hear.
“There’s nothing about that that excites me,” Sellers said as the laughter continued. “I think that he is actually one of the candidates that is kind of the biggest clown in the circus. The reason being is that he really does not have any political depth.”
The former Democratic lawmaker went on to criticize Ramaswamy for “mimicking the language of Donald Trump” and parroting “Republican tropes and stereotypes,” adding that the presidential hopeful’s political inexperience and insufficient policy expertise mean he should be doing actual debate prep.
“The fact that he is out there hitting a tennis ball is showing you that he is not going to take this seriously tomorrow night, and we’re going to see his lack of depth shown through,” Sellers said. “I think that he is going to be the one who actually—the bottom falls out, because right now in most polls, he is running third and I don’t know how or why. I don’t know who a Ramaswamy voter is, but tomorrow, the bottom is going to be falling out due to the lack of depth.”
Turning back to the video, Sellers then exclaimed: “And who plays tennis with their shirt off? Who plays tennis with their shirt off?!”
The mockery of Ramaswamy, who has apparently replaced DeSantis as Fox News’ top Trump alternative in the GOP race, comes hours after the neophyte candidate tangled with CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins over his controversial foreign policy positions and whether he believes 9/11 was an “inside job.” His seemingly condescending reaction to Collins during the heated interview was met with harsh criticism online, with many accusing Ramaswamy of “mansplaining.”