DeSantis slams Haley for Civil War gaffe but faces tough questions on slavery’s legacy

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ANKENY, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis slammed opponent Nikki Haley for giving “a really incomprehensible word salad” answer when she was asked in New Hampshire what caused the Civil War.

During a Wednesday town hall in Berlin, New Hampshire, a voter asked Haley, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?”

“Well, don’t come with an easy question or anything,” Haley responded. “I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how the government was going to run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.”

Haley never mentioned slavery in her answer, drawing backlash from her Republican and Democratic rivals. On Thursday, Haley said “of course the Civil War was about slavery,” and she suggested the question came from a Democratic plant in the audience.

DeSantis was quick to criticize Haley at an Ankeny campaign stop Thursday morning. He told reporters she is “not a candidate that’s ready for prime time.”

“The minute that she faces any kind of scrutiny, she tends to cave,” DeSantis said. “I think that that’s what you saw yesterday. Not that difficult to identify and acknowledge the role slavery played in the Civil War, and yet that seemed to be something that was really difficult.”

DeSantis claimed the abolition of slavery was a “partisan achievement.”

“The Republican Party was founded to put a stop to the growth of slavery in this country. And the abolition of slavery was — and to this day, remains — the party’s top achievement,” he said.

But DeSantis faced his own gauntlet of questions about slavery and the legacy of the Civil War.

A reporter asked about a curriculum standard approved in Florida that “includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The language earned Florida and DeSantis scorn, including from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who at the time was a presidential candidate before later dropping out.

DeSantis cut off the reporter’s question about the standard: “That’s a fake narrative,” he said. “We’ve now had a whole semester that’s happened. Have you seen examples of (teachers) saying what the media was saying this summer? No.”

DeSantis said the standard was “bastardized” intentionally to “create a narrative.”

“Florida’s standards were written largely by African-Americans, and they were accurate, and any of those narratives are false,” he said.

Another reporter asked DeSantis to comment on Jacksonville, Florida, Mayor Donna Deegan’s removal of a Confederate monument.

“I’m opposed to taking down statues,” DeSantis said. “The idea that we’re going to just erase history is wrong.”

USA Today contributed reporting.

Katie Akin is a politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at kakin@registermedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @katie_akin.

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DeSantis slams Haley for Civil War gaffe but faces tough questions on slavery’s legacy

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