June 24, 2024 10:34 am

Nikki Haley says slavery was a US Civil War cause after backlash

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley says the US Civil War was about slavery after facing criticism for not mentioning it as a cause during a town hall event.

A voter in New Hampshire on Wednesday asked her what caused the war.

Appearing startled by the question, she did not name 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,” she said.

Her remarks were quickly criticised by the voter who asked the question. He said that it was “astonishing” that she answered without mentioning the word slavery in the year 2023.

“What do you want me to say about slavery?” Ms Haley responded.

But after facing a blowback on social media, the former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor acknowledged it as a cause on Thursday.

“Of course the Civil War was about slavery,” she told CNN.

“We know that. That’s the easy part of it. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today? What it means to us today is about freedom. That’s what that was all about.”

Speaking to radio station The Pulse of NH on Thursday, Ms Haley also claimed the voter was a “Democrat plant”.

The Wednesday event in Berlin, New Hampshire was a part of Ms Haley’s push to win over voters before the early upcoming Republican primary election in the state.

Ms Haley has risen in opinion polls in recent weeks.

She faces her first test at the Iowa caucuses in early January. While she trails behind former President Donald Trump by a wide margin, she is neck-and-neck with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, another high-profile challenger.

President Joe Biden was among the dozens of Democrats who criticised Ms Haley after her comments in New Hampshire. He posted a video of her exchange on X, formerly Twitter, with the caption: “It was about slavery.”

Her Republican political opponents also seized on the controversy. A campaign account for Mr DeSantis shared a video of her comments with one word: “Yikes”.

A number of civil rights scholars weighed in as well, saying the fight over slavery was a central cause of the Civil War.

South Carolina was the first state to secede during the Civil War and as a former state governor Ms Haley has faced questions about the issue before.

When she was running for governor in 2010, she described the Civil War as a conflict between two sides fighting for “tradition versus change”.

The 1861-65 Civil War between the northern and southern states came after decades of growing animosity over the issue of slavery, and the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, who was explicitly opposed to slavery.

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