(The Hill) – Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley claimed Tuesday that the United States has never been a “racist” country, rejecting a suggestion that she might have trouble becoming the GOP presidential nominee as a woman of color.
In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Haley whether she thinks the GOP is a “racist party.”
“No. We’re not a racist country, Brian. We’ve never been a racist country,” Haley said in response.
“Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday,” she continued. “Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect every day that we can.”
Drawing on her experience as “a brown girl that grew up in a small rural town in South Carolina,” Haley said she has experienced racism in the past but doesn’t want to raise her children to think they’re disadvantaged — a point she’s made before.
“I know, I faced racism when I was growing up. But I can tell you, today is a lot better than it was then,” Haley said. “Our goal is to lift up everybody. Not go and divide people on race or gender or party or anything else. We’ve had enough of that in America.”
She added: “I don’t want my kids growing up where they’re sitting there thinking that they’re disadvantaged because of a color or a gender. I want them to know that if they work hard, they can do and be anything they want to be in America.”
Haley, seen as the most moderate GOP candidate still in the race for the presidential nomination, has come under scrutiny in the past for appearing to avoid issues of race.
At a campaign event in recent weeks, Haley was asked about the cause of the Civil War, and she omitted any mention of slavery. When the audience member who asked the question pointed out the omission, Haley said, “What do you want me to say about slavery.”
She later walked back her remarks, saying “of course” the Civil War was about slavery.
Haley’s “Fox & Friends” interview comes after she came in third place in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night. On Tuesday, however, she defended what she described as a “strong showing” and said in the interview, “That’s what we wanted in Iowa.”
The discussion about racism came after Haley was asked to respond to a clip from an MSNBC host saying, “The elephant in the room, she’s still a brown lady that’s got to try to win in a party that is deeply anti-immigrant. It’s still a challenge.”
The host continued: “I don’t see how she becomes the nominee of that party with Donald Trump still around. I can’t picture it happening. Maybe it could happen. Ron DeSantis’ only argument for staying in it, is he’s the white guy that he can still make the appeal to white people.”
Haley responded by saying her credentials reveal the “American dream,” adding, “You can sit there and give me all the reasons why you think I can’t do this. I will continue to defy everybody on why we can do this. And we will get it done.”
The Hill has reached out to Haley’s campaign for a response.