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US slavery history denial puts Haley in a corner

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US PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Nikki Haley faced a firestorm of criticism last Thursday (28) after failing to mention slavery as a cause of the American Civil War when asked what led to the conflict at a campaign event.

With fewer than two weeks before voting begins in the primary race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, it was the first major stumble for a candidate who has gone from an unlikely outsider to front-runner Donald Trump’s biggest threat.

The former UN ambassador told a town hall crowd last Wednesday (27) in Berlin, New Hampshire, that the cause of the 1861-65 war was “basically how the government was going to run” and “freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do”.

She added, “It always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are.” When she turned the debate back at the questioner, he responded he was not the one running for president, and it was “astonishing” slavery hadn’t come up in her answer.

Scholars agree that slavery was the main driver of the Civil War, and Haley’s obfuscation prompted swift rebuttals. “It was about slavery,” president Joe Biden said, responding on social media.

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Haley, 51, attempted to clear up her comments in a local radio interview last Thursday in New Hampshire, affirming that “of course the Civil War was about slavery, that’s the easy part”.

She accused the town hall questioner – who refused to identify himself to reporters – of being a “Democratic plant” sent to damage her campaign and boost Trump, who is considered a weaker prospect against Biden in the general election.

Trump commands a lead of more than 20 points in polling for New Hampshire’s January 23 primary.

However, Haley has been gaining ground, overtaking Florida governor Ron DeSantis as the former president’s biggest threat.

DeSantis’s spokesman Andrew Romeo called Haley’s clarification “embarrassing”.

“If she can’t handle a question as basic as the cause of the Civil War, what does she think is going to happen to her in a general election? The Democrats would eat her for lunch,” Romeo posted on X, formerly Twitter.

DeStantis, who is a distant second behind Trump in nationwide primary polling, has sparked controversy in his own state over the teaching of race, a delicate issue that divides Americans.

And Trump himself has been berated on both sides of the political divide and accused of echoing Adolf Hitler for remarks about undocumented migrants “poisoning the blood” of the nation.

Haley, who has a history of stirring controversy on America’s Confederate past, raised eyebrows over her views on the Civil War during her successful run for South Carolina governor in 2010.

She was praised in 2015 when she signed legislation removing the Confederate flag from the State House after a white supremacist killed nine people at a church in Charleston. But she had vowed to leave the flag up during her campaign, arguing that “every state has different conditions and every state has certain things that they hold as part of their heritage.”

Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison said her latest remarks were “not stunning” to any black residents of South Carolina during her term in office.

“Some may have forgotten but I haven’t. Time to take off the rose-colored Nikki Haley glasses, folks,” he said. (AFP)

 

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