BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker apologized Monday after he used the word “rant” to describe remarks from U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley at an event honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Pressley, a Boston Democrat, had delivered a speech about inequality and the unfinished fight for civil rights at the 50th annual MLK Memorial Breakfast in Boston.
“I’m still an abolitionist, because my people still are not free,” she told the more than 1,000 audience members, according to WBUR. “And I mean that in every way, not only because of the new Jim Crow and mass incarceration, but because we don’t have economic justice.”
Baker, a Republican, spoke immediately after Pressley and jokingly told the crowd that he would have to follow “that rant.” He quickly added that he agreed with Pressley’s comments about celebrating diversity.
The governor apologized for his word choice after the breakfast, according to his spokeswoman, Lizzy Guyton.
“The governor agreed with Congresswoman Pressley’s remarks today and believes her speech was moving,” Guyton said.
Many in the audience groaned after Baker’s “rant” comment, which was heavily criticized on social media by people who praised Pressley’s comments.
“It was thoughtful, personal, and anything but a rant,” tweeted Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat. “Language like that is dismissive and perpetuates the very harm we seek to end.”
Pressley, who represents the state’s 7th Congressional District, has been propelled onto the national stage in part by her association with three other Democratic congresswomen — U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — labeled the “squad.”
In 2018, Pressley defeated longtime Democratic congressman Michael Capuano, a 20-year veteran of the House, to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
The 45-year-old Pressley previously served as former Secretary of State John Kerry’s political director when he was a U.S. senator and became the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council in 2009.
Other elected leaders attending Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event included Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, both Democrats.