South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has just been named President-elect Donald Trump's choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She has no relevant credentials and an ugly history of defending the Confederate flag, so she will fit right in.
News of Governor Nikki Haley’s selection as Donald Trump’s ambassador to the U.N. quickly gave rise to a particular narrative: Trump had chosen a former critic who gained significant national attention by taking credit for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse following the terrorist mass shooting in Charleston last June. But neither of those points is truly warranted.
When she was first running for governor of South Carolina, then-State Rep. Haley went along with her other Republican opponents in supporting the Confederate flag’s display at the statehouse, and happily angled for votes at rallies where Confederate flags abounded.
When Haley was running for reelection, it was discovered that one of her appointees to her state campaign steering committee was a director for the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization. Haley’s initial reaction was to stand by the man as her campaign accused his critics of persecuting him. It was only after several days of public pressure that Haley’s campaign reluctantly asked for the man’s resignation.
At a gubernatorial debate just months before the murders of in Charleston, Haley defended the Confederate flag again:
You know, the Confederate flag is a very sensitive issue. And what I can tell you is, over the last three and a half years, I’ve spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs, and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.
What is important here is that we look at the fact that yes, perception of South Carolina matters. That’s why we have everybody answering the phones, ‘It’s a great day in South Carolina.’ That’s why we’re being named the friendliest state and the most patriotic state and getting all these great accolades.
But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African-America U.S. Senator [from South Carolina]. That sent a huge message.
That stance was based on a lie that the particular position of the Confederate flag on the statehouse grounds was the result of an agreed-upon “compromise,” when in reality, the South Carolina House Black Caucus, the NAACP, and the NCAA all rejected that half-measure. Haley was still telling this story two days after Dylann Roof murdered nine Black people in a church in Charleston, when she refused to consider taking the flag down:
“The Republicans and Democrats and everybody came together on a consensus to bring the Confederate flag down off of the dome. And they put it on a monument out in front. I think that conversation will probably come back up again. And you what we hope that we do things the way South Carolinians do. Which is have the conversation, allow some thoughtful words to be exchanged, be kind about it. Come together on what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re trying to do it. I think the state will start talking about that again. We’ll see where it goes. What I will tell you right now is, while a lot of issues are going to come up, my job as Governor is to bring everybody back together. We’ve got to heal. This is a state that’s broken, and this is a state that’s hurt.
At that crucial moment, with wounds still fresh, Haley’s concerns were with the feelings of pro-Confederate flag whites. It would be three more days before Haley succumbed to pressure to remove the flag.
As for Haley’s supposed criticism of Trump, it largely took the form of gentle admonishment over his “tone” regarding immigrants:
I understand his frustration. The frustration that he has about illegal immigration a lot of people have. The difference is we need to be very conscious of our tone. We need to be very conscious of how we communicate. There are a lot of legal immigrants that have made this country the place it is today.
Now, she’s headed to the United Nations as his ambassador, provided her lack of foreign policy credentials does not hinder her confirmation by a Republican-controlled Senate.
Nominating Haley benefits Trump in another crucial way, as well. Pulling her from the governorship paves the way for Lt. Governor and Trump ally Henry McMaster to take over as governor of South Carolina.