Nikki Haley clarifies Civil War ‘was about slavery,’ and individual freedom was ‘the lesson’

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is cleaning up comments she made about the U.S. Civil War after catching heat from both sides of the political aisle.

Haley faced a backlash from the White House and fellow Republicans on the campaign trail after she declined to mention slavery as the reason for sparking the U.S. Civil War during a town hall event on Wednesday.

“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.

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a town hall campaign event, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, in Manchester, New Hampshire.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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“It was about slavery,” President Biden posted on X with a clip of Haley’s comments.

“Yikes,” the campaign of fellow GOP candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote.

Haley has since clarified that she believes the Civil War was sparked by slavery but that the “bigger issue” was determining the role of government in people’s lives. She further addressed the issue during a press gaggle with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Thursday.

“I think everybody thinks that the Civil War was about slavery. It was more, what’s the bigger issue of it?” she explained to Fox News’ James Levinson. “You know, we went through 80 years of that, and we know that people were struggling with ‘What’s the role of government? What’s the role of individual freedom?’ And the lesson we should take away from the Civil War is, yes, never allow slavery to happen again. But what does that mean for government and the role of individual freedom?”

“We want every person to have the freedom of speech, religion, to live their life without anyone doing anything to hamper that,” she said. “That’s what this was about. So, if it required clarification of saying, yes, the Civil War was about slavery, I’m happy to do that.”

“But look, I know it very well,” she added. “I fought and took down the Confederate flag in South Carolina. I am very aware of what that is. But for us to move forward as a country, what’s the lesson in it? And the lesson is every person deserves freedom, and we have to always fight for it every single day.”

Sununu also chimed in, saying Haley’s comments were “spot on.”

“Spot on. That’s it. The Civil War is about slavery,” he told reporters. “She acknowledged it. Moving on.”

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While Haley received some backlash for her initial comments, not everyone joined in the pile-on, with some conservatives arguing it was a “gotcha” question.

“She couldn’t have actually handled it better,” Fox News host Griff Jenkins said on “Fox & Friends.” “And in that moment, I think she handled it quite well, considering, and didn’t give in to what would clearly, as you point out, a gotcha question.”

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