Republican US presidential aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy said two protesters, apparently angry over his vehement opposition to aid for Ukraine, intentionally rammed their vehicle into his campaign's parked SUV in Iowa, gave his team the middle finger and drove off.
But police said there is no evidence to support the claim that the crash was intentional.
The incident happened in Grinnell, Iowa, on Thursday when a blue Honda Civic driven by a female with one passenger inside allegedly hit the rear of his campaign's SUV. The SUV was parked. The alleged protestors left the scene immediately.
"Had a civil exchange with protestors today, right before two of them then got into their car & rammed it into ours. Those two should be held accountable, but the rest of the peaceful protestors shouldn’t be tarred by the behaviour of two bad actors," Ramaswamy, The 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur, posted on X.
“Thankfully, no one was hurt,” Ramaswamy said in a statement after the event.
He was not in the car when the incident happened.
“I was attending a campaign event earlier today and was met by a small group of protesters. I respectfully answered their questions and thanked them for expressing their views even if I disagreed with them,” he said.
“What happened next was a step too far. One of the protesters got into their car and appeared to crash into my car at the event, gave them the middle finger, and drove off,” Ramaswamy explained.
The Ramaswamy campaign blamed the collision on protesters who they said were angry about Ramaswamy's remarks on aid for Ukraine, saying they yelled and swore at the presidential candidate before jumping into a vehicle, ramming the campaign car and speeding off.
“Things clearly escalated,” Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin said. “(Ramaswamy) is used to dealing with protesters and handled it very calmly. So he was maybe a little more calm about it than the rest of us.” Ramaswamy said he is a free speech absolutist "but what I witnessed today is not the way..” According to a video shared by his campaign, the protestors had signs that read “Trans rights are human rights,” “Protect public schools” and “Stop fossil fuels. Climate change is real.” “I've listened to people who have tried to protest me and had a conversation with them instead. My political rivals launched a barrage of attacks and insults toward me and I debated them instead,” he said.
“I won't claim to know what was in this protester's mind when they appeared to crash their car but what I can say is this, I will keep doing my part to ensure you're right to say what you need to say – peacefully,” he said and asserted that he will always stand for free speech and the right to peaceful protest.
“But when protestors cross the line and escalate to physical (intentional or otherwise) that is unAmerican and unacceptable,” Ramaswamy said.
"[T]hese were mostly, actually good, peaceful protesters. People would disagree with me, but I think that peaceful protest and more dialogue is a good thing," he told Fox News in an interview.
Grinnell Police Department issued a media release Thursday evening saying, "Our investigation has revealed no evidence to substantiate" the claim that protesters purposefully hit Ramaswamy's vehicle and fled.
Instead, the investigation showed that a patron had eaten lunch at a restaurant and backed out of a parking spot into the campaign's rental vehicle.
A report was taken and the driver was released with a summons for unsafe backing, the release said.
"(The driver) stated she was not in the area to protest, she did not know who the vehicle she struck belonged to, she did not intentionally back into the vehicle, and she did not flee the scene of the accident," according to the release.
The Ramaswamy campaign, asked by the Des Moines Register, a daily morning newspaper of Des Moines, Iowa, to respond to the police's investigation, stood by their initial report that it was protesters who hit the campaign's vehicle.
"I'm very confident, as a witness," McLaughlin said. She said she had not spoken directly to Grinnell police.
The campaign sent a 15-second video clip to the Register that shows Ramaswamy walking in Grinnell, speaking on a private phone call while the driver of a blue Honda honks and appears to flip off the candidate.
During the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 campaign, Ramaswamy called it “disastrous” that the US government was “protecting against an invasion across somebody else’s border” and argued Ukraine funding would be better spent on the “invasion of our own southern border.”
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.