Nikki Haley makes no mention of slavery when asked to name cause of Civil War

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BERLIN, N.H. — GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Wednesday declined to say slavery was a cause of the Civil War, arguing instead that it came down to “the role of government.”

At a New Hampshire town hall, a voter bluntly asked Haley, “What was the cause of the Civil War?”

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and former U.N. ambassador who is aiming to present herself as the top Republican alternative to former President Donald Trump, gave a lengthy answer but did not mention slavery — the primary cause of the war.

“I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run — the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do,” Haley said at the beginning of her response.

She went on to say: “I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are. And I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people.

“Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life. They don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do. They don’t need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom,” she said. “We need to have capitalism. We need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they want to be without government getting in the way.”

After the voter responded by saying he found it “astonishing” that Haley had not used the word “slavery” at any point in her answer, she asked, “What do you want me to say about slavery?”

Haley then moved on to the next question.

The exchange drew a swift response from Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison. “This isn’t hard: condemning slavery is the baseline for anyone who wants to be president of the United States,” he said in a statement.

The response to Haley’s town hall comments follows similar criticism that a GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, faced over his remarks about state standards that teach about the “personal benefit” Black people derived from slavery.

DeSantis was asked in July about the Florida Board of Education’s wording in its guidance for teaching about slavery and said, “I didn’t do it, and I wasn’t involved in it.” He went on to say, “I think what they’re doing is, I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into, into doing things later in life,” referring to enslaved people.

Haley was governor when South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its Capitol following the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. She has previously talked about how the shooting was the most difficult time for her emotionally as governor.

Her campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s town hall remarks.

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Nikki Haley makes no mention of slavery when asked to name cause of Civil War

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