Nikki Haley addresses Civil War comment following mounting backlash: ‘I should have said slavery right away’

Nikki Haley is addressing her controversial and highly-criticized response to a voter’s question about the cause of the Civil War during a campaign event.

A voter asked the 2024 Republican presidential candidate what was “the cause” of the war, and her response failed to mention slavery.

“The first thing I should have said was slavery,” Haley said on “Cavuto Live” Saturday. “I completely agree with that. When you grow up in the South, slavery is a given. Like when you think of the Civil War, you know it was about slavery. That’s never been in question.”


During a New Hampshire town hall on Wednesday, the former South Carolina governor did not initially say “slavery” as the cause of the Civil War when questioned by a voter.

“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 at the event.

“I mean, I think it all comes down to the role of government,” she added. “We need to have capitalism. We need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they want to be without government getting in the way.”

The voter responded that he was shocked she didn’t mention the word “slavery.”

“What do you want me to say about slavery?” Haley asked. “Next question.”

After facing critics from the White House to other GOP hopefuls on the campaign trail, Haley has since clarified her remarks, explaining she believes the Civil War was sparked by slavery but that the “bigger issue” was determining the role of government in people’s lives.

“I’m a Southern governor who actually asked and got the Confederate flag to come down in front of the statehouse. So slavery, if you grow up in South Carolina, you know that that’s a huge part of history,” Haley told Fox News host David Asman on Saturday. 

“But you take it for the lesson that it is, which is, yes, that’s a stain on our history, but where do we go with it from here? What is the role of government? What rights do individuals have and what freedoms do they have?” she continued.


“We want to always fight for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom for a person to do anything they want to do without government or another person getting in their way. If you went on and heard the rest of the explanation, that’s what I was trying to say. But yes, I should have said slavery right away.”

Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.

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