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Nikki Haley says she "should have said slavery" in Civil War answer, expands on pardoning Trump in Iowa town hall

11 days until Iowa caucuses
11 days to Iowa caucuses, DeSantis and Haley fighting each other as Noem campaigns for Trump 04:11

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley says now that she should have mentioned slavery when she was asked about the cause of the Civil War last week.

At a CNN town hall in Iowa Thursday, days before Iowans caucus in the first GOP presidential nominating contest, Haley told moderator Erin Burnett, "I should have said slavery, but in my mind, that's a given that everybody associates the Civil War with slavery." The former South Carolina governor was asked by Burnett to respond to opponent Chris Christie's criticism that her answer stemmed not from being "dumb or racist," but from an unwillingness to offend anyone by telling the truth. 

Nikki Haley faces heavy criticism for failing to mention slavery as cause of Civil War 03:28

When she was asked last Wednesday in New Hampshire what caused the Civil War, Haley responded that she thought the cause "was basically how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn't do." Democrats and Republicans like Christie were quick to seize upon her response.

At Thursday's town hall, Haley went on to say that growing up in the South, slavery is a "very talked about thing" and in her response in New Hampshire, "I was thinking past slavery, and talking about the lesson that we would learn going forward. I shouldn't have done that." 

Pardoning Trump

In addition to her previous remarks on slavery, Haley also expanded on why she'd pardon former President Trump if he's convicted of federal crimes and she's elected president.

One Iowa voter asked her to explain why she'd pardon Trump, even though he's associated with chaos in the country. 

Haley, noting that he'd have to be found guilty first, said it would be better for the country. 

"It's about what's in the best interest for the country, and I don't think our country will move forward with an 80-year-old president sitting in jail," she said. "That allows our country to continue to be divided." She went on to say the country has to move on past that in order to "get out of the chaos."

Iowa shooting and gun control

In the wake of the school shooting that unfolded Thursday morning in Perry, Iowa, killing a sixth-grade student and injuring 5 others, Haley promised to address the nation's mental health crisis upon taking office. "We have got to deal with the cancer that is mental health."

Haley says she does not favor more firearms restrictions. "We could go and take away a certain kind of gun today and that would make you feel better today," Haley said Thursday. "But a week from now there'd be another shooting."

Haley blames insufficient mental health care for gun violence and has called for more therapists and mental health centers nationwide, and she also supports more protective measures for schools, securing them "the same way we secure our airports and our courthouses."

"While Iowa goes first, New Hampshire corrects it"

Haley has also been criticized for a joke she made during a campaign stop earlier this week in Milford, New Hampshire, when she told an audience of roughly 700 voters, "You know, Iowa starts it; you know that you correct it." She was calling for their support during the state's primary, which follows soon after the Iowa caucuses.  

GOP presidential opponent Ron DeSantis immediately pounced, calling Haley "incredibly disrespectful to Iowans to say somehow their votes need to be corrected." The Florida governor, who was being interviewed on a radio show Thursday, added, "I think she's trying to provide an excuse for her not doing well."

Haley's comments even got a rise out of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who took to "X" to tweet, "I trust Iowans to make their own decisions. No 'corrections' needed!"

Iowans booed Haley on this topic Thursday night at the town hall, but she defended her remarks, saying, "I don't live, eat and breathe politics all the time. I like to have fun, too."


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