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Baker Apologizes For Calling Pressley's MLK Speech A 'Rant'

BOSTON (AP/CBS) — 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 am so tired of people saying that what is ruining this country is identity politics," Rep. Pressley told the audience.

"No it isn't. It is hate and white supremacy that is codified through legislation. If we can celebrate the identity of a veteran, if we can celebrate the identity of a survivor of domestic violence, if we can celebrate the identity of someone in the recovery community, and say why we need them at the table to make sure that what happened to them doesn't happen to another person again, the solution is representation and there is nothing wrong with identity."

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.

Pressley Baker
Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Gov. Charlie Baker at MLK Memorial Breakfast in Boston (WBZ-TV)

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."

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins responded with "a rant" for Baker on Twitter, saying "we deserve representation and real power."

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 — Rep. 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.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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