Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley attempts to clarify Civil War comments after backlash

Former South Carolina Governor / Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley at the Iowa State Fair political soapbox in Des Moines^ Iowa. August 12^ 2023

On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley attempted to clarify the remarks she made in which she failed to mention slavery as the cause of the Civil War.

The former governor of South Carolina and ex-United Nations ambassador came under fire Wednesday night after a video of her exchange with a voter in New Hampshire during the town hall in Berlin, N.H. circulated on social media. When pressed by the voter over the cause of the Civil War, Haley said, “Well, don’t come with an easy question, right? I mean, 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 .. We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom.”  After the voter responded it was “astonishing” that she did not mention slavery while discussing the Civil War, Haley asked: “What do you want me to say about slavery?” the voter responded:“You answered my question. Thank you.” 

However, during a New Hampshire radio interview, Haley attempted to clarify her comment, saying: “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.” She later accused the voter who asked her about the cause of the Civil War of being a “Democrat plant.”

Republicans and Democrats both slammed Haley’s initial comments — Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a supporter of Trump, wrote on X that the answer was “slavery, period.”  Meanwhile, the campaign of fellow candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis posted the video of Haley online with the word, “Yikes.”   And President Biden reposted a video of the exchange, writing simple, “It was about slavery.”

Haley and DeSantis are neck-and-neck for second place behind Donald Trump in national polling. As of Thursday, Trump leads the national polls with 63.1 percent of the support, followed by Haley with 10.8 percent and DeSantis close behind with 10.6 percent.

Editorial credit: Juli Hansen /

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