Nikki Haley says ‘of course’ civil war was about slavery amid backlash – Times of India

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Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley sought to tamp down controversy over remarks that failed to list slavery as the cause of the US Civil War, following criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Of course the Civil War was about slavery, we know that. That’s unquestioned, always the case,” Haley said Thursday at a campaign event in New Hampshire.
“But it was also more than that,” she added. “It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government.”
Haley at a town hall in New Hampshire on Wednesday was asked, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?” by an audience member. Haley didn’t mention slavery in her response.
“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 responded. “It always comes down to the role of government. 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.”
Many historians agree slavery was the catalyst for the US Civil War from 1861 to 1865, that ultimately ended with the emancipation of enslaved people.
The incident is the latest to inject debates about race and slavery into the 2024 presidential contest and came at a critical time for Haley’s campaign.
Haley has enjoyed new momentum of late, buoyed by a series of strong performances in the Republican debates. Although she still trails former President Donald Trump by a wide margin, she has risen in the polls and drawn interest from prominent Wall Street donors dismayed by the prospect of a Trump rematch with President Joe Biden.
Haley, who is in third place in the race, behind Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, has focused her efforts on early voting Iowa and New Hampshire. Polls show her in second place in New Hampshire.
DeSantis, who is campaigning in Iowa, lambasted her handling of the matter.
“She was asked a very simple question and responded with just a really incomprehensible word salad,” DeSantis said. “This is not a candidate that’s ready for prime time.”
DeSantis said it is “not that difficult to identify and acknowledge the role slavery played in the Civil War.”
“The Republican Party was founded to put a stop to the growth of slavery in this country and the abolition of slavery was to this day, remains, the party’s top achievement,” he said.
DeSantis, Florida’s governor, generated controversy earlier this year when he defended a state educational curriculum that said formerly enslaved Black Americans gained beneficial life skills from chattel slavery.
Democrats also rebuked Haley for her remarks, with the party’s chair calling her words a “slap in the face to Black voters.”
“I am disgusted but I’m not surprised – this is what Black South Carolinians have come to expect from Nikki Haley, and now the rest of the country is getting to see her for who she is,” Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “This isn’t hard: condemning slavery is the baseline for anyone who wants to be president of the United States.”
Biden posted from his campaign account Wednesday, sharing video of the exchange. “It was about slavery,” he said.

Black voters are a key part of Biden’s coalition and turning them out to cast ballots will be critical for his reelection hopes. Polls show his support among those voters has weakened amid broader anxiety over his economic agenda and frustration over progress on issues including voting rights and police reform.
Biden’s favorability among Black voters in seven swing states has slipped 7 percentage points since October, to 61% this month, according to a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. Trump’s held steady at about 25%.
Trump’s campaign intends to escalate outreach to Black voters in hopes of shaving off enough support to weaken Biden in swing states.
As South Carolina’s governor, Haley gained attention when she called on her state’s lawmakers to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds after a 2015 mass shooting in which a white supremacist targeted people at a historic black church in Charleston. Before that, she had downplayed calls for its removal.
On Thursday, Haley cited her efforts to remove the flag.
“By the grace of God we did the right thing and slavery is no more,” Haley said. “We never want to return back to that place.”


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