Nikki Haley, a Republican presidential candidate, faced criticism for her response to a question about the cause of the Civil War during a town hall in Berlin, New Hampshire. When asked about the Civil War’s cause, Haley did not mention slavery and instead emphasized differences in how government should function, focusing on issues of freedom and governance.
After the exchange, social media and news outlets, including CNN, highlighted the omission of the term “slavery” in Haley’s response. Some criticized her for not acknowledging the central role slavery played in the Civil War.
The audience member who posed the question expressed astonishment at Haley’s response, prompting her to ask, “What do you want me to say about slavery?” The incident fueled reactions on social media, with some expressing disbelief and criticism over Haley’s handling of the question.
CNN anchor Jim Sciutto pointed out that the notion of “freedom” in the context of the Civil War included the freedom to own people. MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan criticized Haley, stating, “Nikki Haley. For shame. The GOP, folks, the modern GOP.” Other commentators, such as podcast host Tim Pool and Bill Kristol, editor-at-large for The Bulwark, also weighed in on the controversy. Kristol highlighted that a political party had emerged against the viewpoint Haley expressed, suggesting a historical contrast.
The incident raised concerns and discussions about the framing of historical events and the importance of acknowledging the role of slavery in discussions about the causes of the Civil War.
WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF THE UNITED STATES CIVIL WAR?”
HALEY LAUGHED AND REPLIED, “WELL DON’T COME WITH AN EASY QUESTION,” BEFORE CONTINUING, “I MEAN, I THINK THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR WAS BASICALLY HOW GOVERNMENT WAS GONNA RUN. THE FREEDOMS AND WHAT PEOPLE COULD AND COULDN’T DO.”
AFTER HALEY ASKED THE AUDIENCE MEMBER, “WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR WAS?” THEY SHOT BACK, “I’M NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.”
HALEY THEN REITERATED, “I MEAN, I THINK IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT.”
“IN 2023 IT’S ASTONISHING TO ME THAT YOU WOULD ANSWER THAT QUESTION WITHOUT MENTIONING THE WORD SLAVERY,” THE AUDIENCE MEMBER DECLARED, TO WHICH HALEY ASKED, “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY ABOUT SLAVERY?”