2024 Election

DeSantis Campaign: Nikki Haley's Civil War Quote 'Disastrous'

GOP Primaries Start January 15th


Presidential candidate Nikki Haley has received criticism from her opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for her response to a voter question on the Civil War. DeSantis is joined in his criticism by leading Democrats, including President Joe Biden.

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Haley was asked what she considered to have started the Civil War. She told the questioner the cause was "how the government was going to run," and "freedoms and what people could and couldn't do".  Absent from her answer was any mention of slavery, the predominant issue which historians agree led to the war.

Haley received immediate backlash from the questioner. "In the year 2023, it's astonishing to me that you'd answer the question without mentioning the word 'slavery'," they fired back. Haley didn't modify her answer, responding with "What do you want me to say about slavery?". Haley, whose home state of South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union in the Civil War, has been scrutinized heavily for her perceived gaffe since it occurred on Wednesday.

Asked on Thursday to expand upon her stance, Haley changed her tune, if only partially. "Of course the Civil War was about slavery," she said in North Conway, New Hampshire. "But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual, it was about the role of government."

"Nikki Haley's Civil War flub shows us yet again why she's not ready for prime time," DeSantis' campaign said on Thursday. "She spewed meaningless platitudes - a pattern for her, because she doesn't have core beliefs."

Though Haley has taken criticism from both her Republican presidential primary opponents and from the political left, DeSantis' own condemnation has received backlash of its own. "In 2023, Ron DeSantis mandated teaching public school children the so called 'personal benefits' of slavery," said Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former Florida legislator currently campaigning for a state Senate seat. "Maybe he should sit this one out."

What Smith references is a piece of school curriculum supported by DeSantis' Education Department that asserts former enslaved African Americans would've used the skills they acquired in slavery to benefit themselves after emancipation. "They're probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed being a blacksmith into doing things later in life," DeSantis said in July. The Florida governor has defended the curriculum against accusations of racism, but has also distanced himself from the idea that he himself penned it.

DeSantis' past with slavery discussion may have drawn skepticism to his attacks against Haley, but he has one unlikely ally: President Joe Biden. "It was about slavery," Biden said plainly on social media. He and his campaign have yet to address the DeSantis element of the story.