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Hakeem Jeffries Defends ‘Grand Wizard’ Trump Comments

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries on Wednesday defended remarks he made earlier this week, comparing President Trump to “the grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” Jeffries revised his statement in an interview with CNN, saying that he does not believe the president is a racist, only that he has a history of “racially insensitive remarks.” He said his language was only rhetorical and intended as part of a larger conversation about racism in America. “I did use a colorful phrase, but of course I don’t believe that the president is a card-carrying member of the KKK,” he said.

Jeffries (D-NY) made the remarks at an event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The “grand wizard” comment was a reference to the title for a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group that has terrorized black Americans since the 1800s. “We have a hater in the White House. A birther in chief. The grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Jeffries said at the event. “One of the things that we’ve learned is that while Jim Crow may be dead, he’s still got some nieces and nephews that are alive and well.”