House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) defended his Martin Luther King Jr. Day comments likening President Donald Trump to a Ku Klux Klan "grand wizard" by saying he never called the commander in chief racist.
He said what?
During a speech at an MLK event on Monday, Jeffries said, "We have a hater in the White House," and then he called Trump "the grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
In an apparent attempt to clarify his comments, the congressman told CNN Wednesday that he doesn't regret his statements "at all."
"With respect to the comments of a few days ago, 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 explained.
"Seems to me that we can't have that conversation on Valentine's Day, we can't have that conversation on St. Patrick's Day," he continued. "It's perhaps appropriate for us to be able to have that difficult discussion on MLK Day when we're celebrating the life and legacy of a champion for racial and social justice."
Jeffries went on to tell CNN "New Day" anchor Alisyn Camerota that he doesn't actually believe President Trump is a member of the KKK.
"As you know, Alisyn, I did not use the words 'racist' in any of my comments. In fact, Wolf Blitzer, in the past, has asked me whether I believe the president is a racist — and I've consistently said 'no,'" he insisted.
"I did use a colorful phrase," Jeffries admitted. "But of course I don't believe that the president is a card-carrying member of the KKK. 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 told Camerota, "In the 1980s, it was Donald Trump that led the lynch mob that went after the Central Park five that were black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they did not commit."
The congressman then listed a number of examples of what Politico said he used "as evidence of Trump's racially incendiary history."
Jeffries dismissed the notion that his calling the president the leader of the KKK added fuel to existing racial tensions, insisting that "we cannot whitewash" Trump's history of making racially insensitive remarks. He added that "Americans of good will," himself included, want to give the president the benefit of the doubt.