Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley ripped into what she called “disgusting” comments from former President Trump, in which he questioned her military husband’s whereabouts while he is serving overseas.
Trump, who holds a comfortable lead over Haley in the GOP primary race, spoke at a campaign event in Conway, S.C., over the weekend and asked the audience why his opponent’s husband is not with her on the campaign trail.
“What happened to her husband?” Trump asked at the South Carolina campaign event. “Where is he? He’s gone. He knew. He knew.”
Asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper about the former president’s comments and the cheering that followed at the rally, Haley said, “The first thing I’ll say is it’s disgusting.”
Haley’s husband, Maj. Michael Haley, is currently abroad with the South Carolina National Guard on a yearlong mission in the Horn of Africa. He is deployed as a staff officer with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
“If you’re going to go and criticize a combat veteran, you criticize one veteran, you’re criticizing all of them. But this continues to be a pattern of what he’s doing whether he’s sitting there calling them suckers, whether he’s in Arlington Cemetery saying ‘why would they do this?’ Not understanding that no, my husband is not with me in a presidential campaign because he’s serious our country,” Haley said on Monday, in reference reported remarks Trump made during his administration in which he referred to dead U.S. service members as “suckers.”
“Because if you don’t understand that it’s their shoulders we stand on, if you don’t understand that everybody knows someone who has either lost their life or served this country in a way that’s allowed us to keep our freedoms, that is not someone who deserves to be commander-in-chief because if you don’t respect our military, how should we think you’re going to respect them the it comes to times of war and prevent war and keep them from going?” she added.
Without directly calling out Trump’s remarks, Michael Haley posted a photo of a wolf on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, with the words, “The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack.” Michael also tagged Trump’s accounts along with various news outlets.
Trump’s recent comments quickly drew comparisons to those he made in 2015 about whether the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, should be considered a hero because Trump liked “people who weren’t captured.”
Tapper pressed Haley to explain her decision to work under the former president as a United Nations ambassador after he made the remarks about McCain.
“I think at first when he said things … in 2015 … you didn’t know whether it was a slip of the tongue or whether this is who he was,” she responded. “I was proud to serve America in his administration. That’s who I worked for — is the people of America. And to serve in his administration, I was proud to do that.”
Haley quipped she told Trump on multiple occasions that he was “his own worst enemy,” and would tell him when something he did “was not right.”
“I always told him the truth. I always spoke up for what I thought a strong America should be,” Haley said. “And quite honestly, he always listened to me and he was very respectful because he [knew] I saw the truth and he knew that I was looking out for America.”
Earlier on Monday, Haley released a roughly 90-second-ad that showcased Trump’s past mocking of veterans, including his reported “suckers” and “losers” comments about soldiers who died overseas, his remarks about McCain’s time in Vietnam and his 2018 attack against retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“Donald Trump had a rally today and in that rally, he mocked my husband’s military service. And I’ll say this: Donald, if you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back, get on a debate stage and say it to my face,” Haley said last Saturday at a rally in South Carolina, which is featured in the ad. “I am proud of Michael’s service. Every military spouse knows it’s a family sacrifice.”
Haley on Sunday called Trump’s comments about her husband “insulting to military families.”
In an earlier statement to The Hill, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung contended there “has been no bigger fighter for our military men and women than President Trump.”
“Nikki Haley likes to talk about her foreign policy chops, but bowing down to China and advocating for forever wars by sending our troops into unnecessary conflicts represent America Last policies she is so fond of,” Cheung said in a statement to The Hill.
Haley and Trump are making a series of campaign stop in Haley’s home state of South Carolina, which will hold its GOP primary later this month.
Trump holds a nearly 32-point lead over Haley in the Palmetto State, according to polling aggregation from The Hill and Decision Desk HQ. The former South Carolina governor has pledged to stay in the race until at least Super Tuesday despite disappointing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.