Nikki Haley defends SOTU response as big-name conservatives pile on

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been the center of attention since delivering the Republican Party response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday, earning praise and even calls to be the potential GOP vice presidential nominee.

She’s also seen her share of criticism for remarks directed at Donald Trump.

Haley spoke favorably on immigration and made a clear reference to the GOP front-runner’s proposal last month to ban Muslims entering the U.S. following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.

“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” Haley said. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

The comment sparked a number of fiery posts on social media from political commentator Ann Coulter, and while the governor did not specifically name Trump at the time, she acknowledged on Wednesday that the message was directed at him among others.

And while Haley’s not looking to square-up with Trump, she defended her remarks and dismissed Coulter as one of those “angry voices” she spoke of in her response.

“Tone matters,” she told reporters. “Message matters, and responsibility matters.”

Appearing on Fox News’ “On The Record,” she told host Greta Van Susteren that she considers Trump “a friend,” but disagrees with him on the issue.

“I disagree with the fact that he wants to start using religion as a way to divide people,” Haley said. “I just want him to understand that this country is made up of immigrants, we want to make sure they’re properly vetted and they come here legally.”

Trump responded to Haley’s speech Wednesday on Fox & Friends, calling her “very weak on illegal immigration.”

“She’s very weak on illegal immigration…and she certainly has no trouble asking me for campaign contributions because over the years she’s asked me for a hell of a lot of money in campaign contributions,” the candidate said.

Talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh was among those critical of Haley’s remarks.

Though an admirer of the governor, Limbaugh said on his show Wednesday that her speech was proof that the GOP would like to rid itself of conservatives.

“For one thing, it’s almost absolute proof of what I have been saying for the last couple years now, that the Republican Party’s trying to drive conservatives out of the party,” he said.

“But I think it’s more than that, he added. “It’s certainly that, but her speech last night sort of expanded the theme of who is and who isn’t qualified to be a Republican, and the Republican Party is still anti-conservative.”

Just as Coulter did, conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham took to social media to speak against Haley.

 

Trump rival Carly Fiorina also hit Haley saying she set the “wrong note” on immigration.

“President Obama tried to tell us that everything’s okay, that things are getting better, and the vast majority of Americans know…it’s not okay,” she said while talking with radio host Mike Gallagher.

As fate would have it, the Republican debate is being held Thursday in South Carolina, and Van Susteren had some words of advice for Haley when she said she’d be there to welcome the candidates.

“Well, when you see Donald Trump, you might want to duck tomorrow night,” she playfully warned.

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