Nikki Haley, who asked what caused the Civil War, leaves out slavery. It’s not the first time

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Nikki Haley, who asked what caused the Civil War, leaves out slavery. It’s not the first time

Election 2024


Dec. 28, 2023

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was asked by a New Hampshire voter about the reason for the Civil War, and she did not mention slavery in her answer, causing the voter to say he was surprised at her negligence.

Asked during a town hall Wednesday evening in Berlin, N.H., what she believed caused the war, the first shots of which were fired in her home state of South Carolina, Haley spoke about the role of government and responded that it included the freedoms of what people could and couldn’t.

She then turned the question back to the man who asked it. He responded that he was not the one running for president and instead wanted to know her answer.

After Haley gave a longer explanation about the role of government, individual freedom, and capitalism, the questioner appeared to admonish Haley, saying, “In the year 2023, I find it amazing that you answer that question without mentioning the word slavery.”

What do you want me to say about slavery? Haley replied before abruptly moving on to the next question.

But 12 hours later, Haley walked back her comments and her campaign released a radio interview Thursday morning in which she said, “Of course the Civil War was about slavery, something she called a stain on America. She further reiterated that freedom is important. And individual rights and freedoms matter to all people.

Haley, who served as governor of South Carolina for six years, is vying for a distant second to Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. She has often said during her campaign that she would compete in the first three states before returning to the beautiful state of South Carolina, and that she would finish that campaign well in the primaries of February 24.

The Florida Governor’s Campaign. Ron DeSantis, another foe of Haley’s Republican party, circulated the video of the original exchange on social media and added the comment: Yikes.

DeSantis faced anti-slavery criticism early in the campaign, when Florida implemented new education standards requiring teachers to instruct high school students that slaves developed skills that could be applied to their personal benefit. U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate and DeSantis’ then-rival for the Republican presidential nomination, rejected that characterization and said instead that slavery was about separating families, about mutilating of people and even about raping their wives.

Issues surrounding the origins of the Civil War and its legacy are still very much part of the fabric of Haley’s home state, and she has been pressed about the war’s origins before. When she ran for governor in 2010, Haley, in an interview with a now-defunct activist group then known as The Palmetto Patriots, described the war between two disparate parties fighting for tradition and change and said the Confederate flag not something that was racist.

During that same campaign, she dismissed the need to drop the flag from the Statehouse grounds, portraying her Democratic rivals’ push to remove the flag as a desperate political stunt.

Five years later, Haley urged lawmakers to remove the flag from its spot at a Confederate soldiers monument after a mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., in which a white gunman killed nine black church members attending the Bible study. Haley said at the time that the flag was hijacked by the gunman from those who saw the flag as a symbol of sacrifice and heritage.

South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, the 1860 proclamation by the state government outlining the reasons for secession from the Union, mentions slavery in its opening sentence and notes the increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states toward the institution of slavery as a reason for the state’s withdrawal from the Union.

On Wednesday evening, Christale Spain, elected the first Black woman to chair the South Carolina Democratic Party this year, said Haley’s response was despicable but not surprising.

The same person who refused to take down the Confederate Flag until the tragedy in Charleston, and tried to justify a Confederate History Month, Spain said in a post on X from Haley. She is just as MAGA as Trump, Spain added, referencing Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

Jaime Harrison, current chairman of the Democratic National Committee and South Carolina party chairman during part of Haley’s tenure as governor, said her reaction wasn’t stunning if you were a Black resident of S.C. when she was governor.

The same person who said the Confederate flag was about tradition and heritage and that as a minority woman she was the right person to champion its retention on the statehouse grounds, posted Harrison on X on Wednesday night. Some may have forgotten, but I haven’t . Time to take off the rose-colored Nikki Haley glasses, folks.

___Meg Kinnard can be reached at


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