During a conversation that also touched on America’s past and present issues with racism, Ms Haley spoke primarily with fellow South Carolinian Charlamagne Tha God as she said that Donald Trump was wrong for the country’s future.
She also explained why it has taken her so long to make that argument.
Ms Haley, asked by Charlamagne how much she had taken it personally when Tim Scott endorsed Donald Trump over Haley, who had appointed him as senator, she replied: “you can’t take it personally,” while adding that Mr Scott would have to “sleep with” that decision — a statement that carried an obvious and uniquely southern bite.
She went on to address Mr Trump on the same topic, arguing that unlike her, the former president had made his politics all about himself.
“He’s made it chaotic. He’s made it self-absorbed. He’s made people dislike and judge each other. He’s left that a president should have moral clarity, and know the difference between right or wrong, and he’s just toxic,” said the former governor. “I think a lot of the things he broke needed to be broken, but he doesn’t know how to fix things again.”
Nikki Haley on Trump's impact on American politics:
“He's made it chaotic. He's made it self-absorbed. He made people dislike and judge each other…He’s just toxic.”pic.twitter.com/8zE7wf5tpT
— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) January 31, 2024
Ms Haley also outlined her path to victory in South Carolina, arguing that her campaign had surged in the state of New Hampshire and defied polling in the Granite State. Pointing to crowd sizes at her events over the past week, she then argued that her home state would be the next place she could deliver an upset of some kind against the frontrunner.
Her opponent remains the wide favourite to win both the nomination and the state of South Carolina itself. Some polling has put Mr Trump as high as about 65 per cent in the state, the kind of victory that would go far to cement his frontrunner status.
Wednesday’s interview touched on far more than just campaign politics, however. It also marked Ms Haley’s first longer remarks about the issue of race in America since an embarrassing gaffe in response to a question at a town hall regarding slavery’s role in sparking the Civil War.
She addressed the former president addressing her by her birth name, Nimrata, on social media, declaring that she would let others decide if Mr Trump’s intent had been racist. And she admitted that her comment about the Civil War had been a mistake.
The host and Ms Haley clashed, however, on whether it was right to say that America is not, and has never been, a racist country. Ms Haley explained that she did not believe the intent of the Founding Fathers had been to establish a country firmly rooted in racist values, and argued that such theories only served to create a seemingly hopeless situation for younger Americans of colour.
“But why do you want kids to hear that they live in a racist country? Why can’t you tell kids, ‘look, we’re not perfect, and we have some more things to fix’? I just I don’t want any child to think like that,” said Ms Haley, Pointing to her own upbringing, she said: “I don’t want any child to believe that their disadvantaged from the second they’re born. I didn’t want to feel that.”
The former governor has been undergoing ruthless attacks from her opponent as the race heads towards South Carolina; the ex-president’s tone has changed too, becoming noticeably angrier towards his onetime United Nations ambassador following her better-than-expected performance in New Hampshire and subsequent refusal to drop out of the race.
Meanwhile, Ms Haley faces the very related pressure to prove that her campaign isn’t over. Washington Republicans have largely coalesced around the idea that Donald Trump will be the nominee, referring to him as such in public statements even as a few in leadership remain hesitant to endorse him outright.
South Carolina’s primary, the former governor’s next real shot at winning a victory against the “incumbent” former president, is set for 24 February.