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A Brief History of Nikki Haley’s Biggest Flip Flops on Trump


Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is set to formally announce her presidential bid two weeks from now, multiple outlets including the Post and Courier, CNN, and Politico reported Tuesday. If no one else jumps into the race before then, she will be the first prominent Republican to challenge former President Donald Trump, who launched his presidential campaign in November.

Haley served in South Carolina’s state house before becoming the state’s first female governor in 2011. During her tenure, she signed a bill that removed the Confederate flag from the state capitol following the 2015 mass shooting of Black churchgoers in Charleston. In 2016, she gave her party’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. In 2017, Haley became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump. Over the past several years—before, during, and after taking a position in his Administration—she’s flip-flopped on Trump multiple times, oscillating from criticizing the 45th President to praising him.

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A spokesperson for Haley did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are four key examples of when Haley changed her position on Trump.

2016 campaign

Haley was sharply critical of Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

“Every time someone criticizes him, he goes and makes a political attack back,” Haley said in 2015. “That’s not who we are as Republicans. That’s not what we do.”

She also slammed his plan to build a border wall and his other positions on immigration. “Republicans need to remember that the fabric of America came from these legal immigrants,” Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, said. “If you want to talk about tackling illegal immigration, then let’s talk about it, but we don’t need to attack so many millions of people who came here. . . and did it the right way, like my parents.”

In her 2016 State of the Union response, Haley did not mention Trump by name but said, “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.”

Ahead of her state’s primary, she was even more direct, saying that Trump represented “everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.” She said she would not back the controversial business tycoon and ultimately endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio. When he dropped out, she supported Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Eventually, Haley said before the general election that she planned to vote for Trump, even though she was “not a fan.” Weeks later, she accepted a position in his Cabinet.

Ambassador to the U.N.

During her tenure as Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., Haley was willing to publicly distinguish herself from the President.

While Trump was criticized for refusing to unequivocally condemn Russian election meddling, Haley took a tough stance on the country’s actions, saying, “When a country can come interfere in another country’s elections, that is warfare.”

While Trump called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “obsolete,” Haley said, “I think NATO is an important alliance for us to have, and now we need more allies than ever.” She continued: “Any comments the President-elect has made are his comments,” Haley said. (Trump later walked back his position.)

Asked in 2017 about the women who had accused Trump of sexual harassmentallegations Trump has denied—she said, “We should all be willing to listen to them.”

Haley ultimately resigned from the post on her own terms in 2018, receiving a glowing parting speech from Trump—a rarity in an Administration rife with turmoil and bitter exits. She continued to put daylight between herself and Trump at times, responding to his 2019 tweet pointing out a burglary at Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings’ home by tweeting, “This is so unnecessary.”

But in her book published that year, With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace, she was all-in on the Trump presidency. She lavished the President with praise, explaining his strategy in complimenting Russian President Vladimir Putin as a maneuver intended to keep communication open. Talking to NBC during her book tour, she spoke positively about Trump: “In every instance I dealt with him, he was truthful, he listened and he was great to work with,” she said.

Jan. 6 attack

Haley blamed Trump for the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and suggested that the GOP would move on without him.

“I think he’s going to find himself further and further isolated,” Haley told Politico the week after the attack. “I think he’s lost any sort of political viability he was going to have… He’s not going to run for federal office again… I don’t think he’s going to be in the picture. … I don’t think he can. He’s fallen so far.”

“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” she continued. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”

By October 2021, she seemed to have changed her mind. “He has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that,” Haley told the Wall Street Journal. “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”

2024 campaign

Haley also backtracked on how her former boss’s campaign plans would affect her own. In a 2021 press conference, she said that she would support Trump if he ran in 2024.

“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” Haley said. “That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point if that decision is something that has to be made.”

Over the past few months, Haley has hinted that her own campaign was in the works, and multiple news outlets reported in late January that an announcement is imminent.

Even if she does go back on her pledge not to face off against the former President, she did seek his blessing before her announcement: “I talked to her for a little while,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run. She’s publicly said that ‘I would never run against my President, he was a great President.’”