Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley responded Thursday to her Wednesday evening comments at a New Hampshire town hall where she failed to mention slavery as the reason for the Civil War.
When asked by an audience member what the cause of the war was, Haley responded it “was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do,” according to several videos of the exchange. After blowback across social media for failing to mention slavery in her answer, Haley clarified during an appearance on New Hampshire radio that she was talking about what the war “means to us today.”
“Of course the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That’s the easy part of it. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today? What it means to us today is about freedom. That’s what that was all about. It was about individual freedom, it was about economic freedom, it was about individual rights,” said Haley. “Our goal is to make sure, no, we never go back to the stain of slavery, but what’s the lesson in all of that?”
After Haley was asked about the cause of the civil war, she proposed the same question to the audience member, who responded, “I’m not running for president.”
“I mean I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” Haley responded. “I will always stand by the fact that I think the government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people. Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life. They don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do. They don’t need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom.”
“It’s astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word ‘slavery,’” the audience member responded.
“What do you want me to say about slavery?” Haley asked. “Next question.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign has since taken aim at Haley over her comments in multiple posts on X, with press secretary Bryan Griffin arguing she “stepped in a giant mess of her own making.” Conservative businessman Vivek Ramaswamy also slammed Haley on social media for her remarks, calling her “a perfect puppet for the corrupt establishment.”
Haley’s comments come just weeks away from voting in the key early primary state of New Hampshire, where she has seen a surge in the polls. The RealClearPolitics average for a 2024 Republican primary in the first-in-the-nation state, based on polling conducted between Dec. 7 and Dec. 19, indicates Haley has 24.8% support behind only former President Donald Trump with 46.3%.
Mary Lou Masters on December 28, 2023