Nikki Haley calls Donald Trump 'disgusting' over his veterans comments – USA TODAY
ELGIN, S.C. – Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is doubling down on her condemnation of former President Donald Trump over comments he made ridiculing her deployed husband.
“The problem with Trump is he’s never been anywhere near a uniform,” Haley said during an interview with Fox News on Monday. “The closest he’s come to harm’s way is a golf ball hitting him on a golf cart.”
“What he did is disgusting. And anybody that agrees with it or says it’s okay is disgusting along with him,” she added.
Haley’s criticism comes in response to an attack Trump leveled on Saturday at her husband, who is serving a yearlong deployment in Africa, for not appearing on the campaign trail.
Haley has since used it as an opportunity to tear into him for disparaging comments he has previously made about veterans.
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At campaign stops across South Carolina, Haley has started highlighting Trump’s mocking of service members as a key reason why voters should back her in the state’s fast-approaching GOP presidential primary.
“This wasn’t a slip of the tongue for Trump,” Haley said after an event inside the Thunder Tower Harley-Davidson on Monday afternoon. “When he goes off his teleprompter, that’s him speaking from the heart. And it’s a pattern.”
Haley spent the better part of her speech at the central South Carolina venue tying Trump’s comments about veterans to wider concerns about his character and fitness to lead.
“He doesn’t understand the founding of this country,” Haley said to a crowd of fewer than 50 people, that included many veterans and their families. “He’s not qualified to be the president of the United States.”
The tone marks a stark shift for Haley, who has tiptoed around criticizing Trump for much of the 2024 presidential campaign by arguing that chaos simply “follows him.”
Now, as Haley seeks to build momentum in South Carolina after Trump clinched victories in other pivotal 2024 contests, she is drastically ramping up criticism of the former president.
Earlier on Monday, Haley released a nearly two-minute ad arguing that “it’s time to support leaders who support our troops.”
In particular, the ad highlighted Trump’s 2015 comments about former Sen. John McCain, who served in Vietnam and was a prisoner of war. Trump during his first presidential campaign, said the Arizona lawmaker was “not a war hero” and that he preferred “people who weren’t captured.”
Haley’s spot alsoresurfaced allegations from Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, that the then-president described fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” in 2018.
The ad comes just days after Trump questioned the whereabouts of Haley’s husband Maj. Michael Haley, who is an active-duty member of the South Carolina National Guard.
“Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away. He’s away. What happened to her husband?” Trump said during a campaign rally in South Carolina.
Haley initially responded to the comments over the weekend during a campaign event, stating: “Donald, if you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face.”
“If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don’t deserve a driver’s license, let alone being the president of the United States,” she added in comments that she has since repeated, including in the ad.
The mounting fight between Trump and Haley comes less than two weeks before South Carolina’s pivotal Republican primary. Haley is trailing Trump by over 30 points in her home state, which is set to vote in the GOP race on Feb. 24.