Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and all-time home run leader Hank Aaron is comparing Republicans who oppose President Barack Obama to members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Aaron spoke to USA Today on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the day he hit his 715th career home run, shattering Babe Ruth’s hallowed record. Throughout his historic run, Aaron endured the hate mail, death threats and racism of individuals who did not want to see an African-American break Ruth’s record. During Tuesday’s interview, Aaron revealed his view that Obama’s progress has been hindered by Republicans who do not want to see him succeed.
“Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at the black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treat,” Aaron told the newspaper. “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
Aaron’s “hoods” comment refers to the distinctive outfit worn by members of the KKK. In essence, the 80-year-old slugger believes that the attitude of Republicans toward Obama is a modern-day analog.
Still, Aaron believes that the nation has made some progress since his playing days. “We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country,” he said.
According to USA Today, Aaron still possesses many of the racist letters he received while pursuing Ruth’s record. “To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record,” he said. “If you thank that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”
On Wednesday, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh criticized Aaron’s comparison. “Oh, this is a day for sadness or frustration or what have,” Limbaugh said, via AL.com. “I really cannot believe this. One of the men I idolized growing up, one of the men who I wanted to be like growing up—Hank Aaron, who’s now 80, who broke the Babe Ruth home run record—is out there saying the Republican Party is today’s KKK.”
“He said that it’s the Republicans who are hindering Obama’s job performance. Well, that’s just silly,” Limbaugh added. “Republicans haven’t made any effort to stop Obama, I mean, not seriously. Hank, the Republicans are trying to find ways to make it look like they agree with the guy on various things. …The KKK was a bunch of Democrats. Bu that’s not even the point. The point is that it’s just silly. It’s disappointing is what it is.”