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Nikki Haley claims ‘Democrat plant’ sent by Biden tripped her up with Civil War question

Ex-South Carolina governor claimed without evidence that Joe Biden is sending operatives to her campaign events after Civil War comments spark backlash

Bevan Hurley,Gustaf Kilander
Thursday 28 December 2023 19:43 GMT
Nikki Haley says focusing on Trump court cases would be 'wasted energy'

Nikki Haley has attempted to clean up her failure to cite slavery as the cause of the Civil War at a New Hampshire town hall on Wednesday by claiming she was set up by a “Democrat plant” sent by Joe Biden.

The GOP presidential candidate was in damage control mode on Thursday after being widely denounced for stating the deadliest war in US history began due to “freedoms, and what people could and couldn’t do” at the campaign event in Berlin.

In an interview with The Pulse of NH radio station on Thursday, the former South Carolina governor attempted to walk back her remarks by stating that “of course, the Civil War was about slavery”.

“We know that, that’s the easy part. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today?” she said.

“It was about individual freedom, it was about economic freedom... our goal is to make sure we never go back to the stain of slavery, but what’s the lesson in all of that?”

Ms Haley went on to claim, without providing evidence, that the man who posed the question was a political operative working on behalf of Mr Biden.

“It was definitely a Democrat plant,” she told the station.

Ms Haley told The Pulse of NH that Democrats were deliberately trying to sabotage her campaign because they would prefer to run against Donald Trump.

Nikki Haley has claimed a ‘Democrat plant’ asked her what caused the Civil War at a New Hampshire town hall on 27 December (AP)

Her explanation was roundly mocked by Democrats and political commentators.

“Attention WalMart Shoppers … clean up on aisles 9, 10, 11, and 12,” Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison posted on X.

“This is what you get when you don’t stand for anything… when you are devoid of any core values and the only thing that drives you is ambition.”

Sarah Longwell, founder of the Republican Accountability Project, wrote: “If you’re a presidential candidate and you’re gonna say something idiotic, and then do a lousy clean up job the next day, you should absolutely not do it during the slowest news week of the year.”

Pod Save America host Jon Favreau wrote sarcastically that it was a “great sign that American politics today involves days-long debates over questions like ‘What was the Civil War about?’”

On Fox News, the hosts of Fox & Friends echoed Ms Haley’s claim that the audience member may have been planted to create a “gotcha moment” and claimed the candidate had “handled it quite well.”

The controversy was sparked when a town hall audience member asked Ms Haley on Wednesday night: “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” 

The former United Nations ambassador paused for a moment before joking: “Well, don’t come with an easy question”.

She then replied: “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.”

Ms Haley then asked the attendee what he thought the cause was, to which he replied that he wasn’t the one running for president.

He declined to be identified afterwards, but told reporters his first name was Patrick.

Ms Haley’s remarks set off a political firestorm that drew widespread criticism from political commentators and Democrats.

Ms Haley’s viral moment comes amid a recent uptick in her polling in New Hampshire, where she was endorsed earlier this month by the state’s governor Chris Sununu.

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