Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, also faced criticism recently for failing to mention slavery when a town hall attendee asked her what caused the Civil War
Nikki Haley's comments about race are under scrutiny for the second time in recent weeks, after suggesting that the United States doesn't have a racism problem.
During a Tuesday morning interview with Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, Haley was shown a clip of MSNBC's Joy Reid theorizing that racism in the GOP will prevent a woman of color from clinching the party's presidential nomination. "Are you involved in a racist party?" Kilmeade asked when the clip ended.
"No, we're not a racist country, Brian. We've never been a racist country," the former South Carolina governor responded, saying that Reid lives in "a different America" than the one she knows and seemingly downplaying the well-documented existence of racism in the U.S.
Haley, whose parents emigrated from India before she was born, continued, saying, "I know I faced racism when I was growing up, but I can tell you that today is a lot better than it was then. Our goal is to lift up everybody, not go and divide people on race, or gender, or party, or anything else. We've had enough of that in America."
Haley's campaign later clarified and defended her comments on Fox News, attempting to draw a line between having racism and being racist.
“America has always had racism, but America has never been a racist country,” a campaign spokesman told CNN. “The liberal media always fails to get that distinction. It can throw a fit, but that doesn’t change Nikki’s belief that America is special because its people are always striving to do better and live up to our founding ideals of freedom and equality.”
Haley recently received criticism on both sides of the aisle — including from former President Donald Trump — for failing to mention slavery when a New Hampshire town hall attendee asked her what caused the Civil War.
"I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn't do," she said at the event in late December. "What do you think the cause of the Civil War was?"
The man who asked the question shot back by saying he wasn't "the one running for president," prompting her to continue her answer.
"I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government," Haley added, before emphasizing the importance of "economic freedom" and capitalism. "And I will always stand by the fact that I think 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."
After the town hall attendee noted that Haley hadn't made any mention of slavery — which was central to the Civil War being fought — Haley then asked, "What do you want me to say about slavery? Next question."
President Joe Biden was quick to seize on the moment, taking to social media to write, "It was about slavery," along with a clip of the exchange.
After she was accused of brushing over an ugly chapter in U.S. history, Haley admitted that she "should have said 'slavery.'" In a radio show appearance the day after the town hall, she said, “Of course the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That’s the easy part of it," before going on to elaborate on her earlier answer, The Washington Post reported.
“I want to nip it in the bud. Yes, we know the Civil War was about slavery. But more than that, what’s the lesson in all this?” Haley said. “That freedom matters. And individual rights and liberties matter for all people. That’s the blessing of America. That was a stain on America when we had slavery. But what we want is [to] never relive it, never let anyone take those freedoms away again.”
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Trump has since begun to reference Haley's Civil War gaffe in his own campaigning.
“They asked her about the Civil War: Why did it start? How did it start? She didn’t use the word ‘slavery,’ which was interesting,” the former president told Iowa voters this month. “I don’t know that it’s going to have an impact, but I’d say slavery is sort of the obvious answer as opposed to about three paragraphs of bulls--- she just talked. Nobody knew what she was saying.”
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