Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Nikki Haley Launches Presidential Bid In Charleston. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 15, 2023 - 11:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In just minutes, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will make it official becoming a presidential candidate in the 2024 race. Haley is a former governor and former United Nations ambassador and she will be the first major Republican candidate to announce that she is challenging Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. We will bring you her speech live the moment it begins.

Until then, our panel is back with me. And, Abby, let me note that Nikki Haley was really thrust into the national spotlight after an act of horrific violence in South Carolina, and then she moved to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol of South Carolina.


TAPPER: She also described, however, that flag in some glowing terms. Take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble. Traditions of history, of heritage, and advanced history. The hate- filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it.

Those South Carolinians view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity, and duty. They also see it as a memorial, a way to honor our ancestors who came to the service of their state during times of conflict. That is not hate, nor is it racism. At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past.

As a state, we can survive, and indeed we can thrive as we have done while still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser.


TAPPER: So, we were talking about is Nikki Haley going to be able to straddle the future of the Republican Party and the past, the Donald Trump part of the Republican Party.


TAPPER: And there you hear her straddling quite a bit when it comes to the Confederacy.


PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I was in Charleston -- in Charleston when the Mother Emanuel shooting happened. I interviewed Nikki Haley in the aftermath of this moment and went to her hometown in Bamberg to try to understand where she came from. It is a very small town, a pretty white town, and one where when I talked to the black people who live there, they kind of rolled their eyes at a lot of this because I think Haley for much of her life and her career when she talks about it, she says, I wasn't black, I wasn't white, they divide people by race.

But I think that the way that if you're a black South Carolinian, you see it. And if you're a black person in this country, that you see it. It's not like black people were separating themselves from white people. They were the victims of racism. And I don't think you hear that from Nikki Haley very often, but that is a message that works in South Carolina. She is speaking to white South Carolina in a lot of ways when she talks about the Confederate flag in that way.

And I will -- I will say this. It's not that that is acceptable to black people or black South Carolinians, but they understand where it comes from because that's the community that they grew up and then they know that you can't be a politician in that state and not acknowledge the perspective of the Confederate flag that sees it as a symbol of history. My question is -- I mean, 2015 was a lifetime ago in this country's history. So much has happened since then. I really am not sure that that message works today the way that it did then. I think there's just a lot less tolerance for false equivalencies and equivocation on issues of race. And she's going to have to confront that.

TAPPER: But the counterargument might be that only by straddling that, was she able to pull South Carolina into the --

PHILLIP: That is --

TAPPER: -- 19th or 20th century. Did you know what I mean?

PHILLIP: Exactly. And that is exactly the argument that she will make. When she -- when she led the charge to remove the Confederate flag, she couldn't do it single-handedly. It wasn't like as a governor, she could say it's coming down. She had to get the Republican-controlled legislator -- legislatures to do it. And so, in order to do that, she had to make a political case to them that it was in their best interest to do it as well.

And if you look at that image of her at that press conference, look at who she's standing. Jaime Harrison, who's the chair of the Democratic party today is standing behind her. Jim Clyburn, who she called the day before she made this decision, standing next to her. TAPPER: Here's the picture.

TAPPER: You got Tim Scott, who she appointed to a Senate seat, sitting on -- standing on her other side. She was making a political case on it. And from her view, and I don't think this is illegitimate, it was the only way that it was going to happen.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks the only way that was going to happen in South Carolina. What was fascinating about the announcement video that she put out yesterday is that she was silent on this. It wasn't in the video.

PHILLIP: She didn't -- (INAUDIBLE) --

BASH: I listened to it --

PHILLIP: -- when she talked to that matter.

BASH: I listened to it. I watched it twice, just because I was not sure if I had missed it the first time. So, I am looking to see if she talks about it in this speech because, like it or not, it is something that she is known for when we all talk about the -- maybe top five things that she is known for in South Carolina that's in there.

TAPPER: Or nationally.

BASH: Or nationally --


BASH: -- if that's in there. And it should be because she did something that was so incredibly difficult by reaching out to Republicans. I mean, we remember in 2000 what happened with John McCain --



BASH: -- when he was running in 2008.

TAPPER: This was a huge campaign -- (INAUDIBLE)


BASH: It was a huge campaign problem issue within the Republican Party --


BASH: -- and he got himself twisted into knots because he wanted to make a statement against the Confederate flag. And then his campaign told him not to, and then just, you know, a few years later, Nikki Haley was able to do it. Will she talk about this? Because, yes, you're right about the Republican Party. But if she wants to pitch herself as somebody who can broaden the appeal to the wider electorate, what better way than to say I'm the person who did this?

CHALIAN: Well, we do know, right? She -- the littlest hint in that video was she talked about sort of leading the state through the aftermath of the Mother Emanuel shooting, which they --

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: It was her --

BASH: Very silent.

CHALIAN: No, no, no. A hundred percent. She chose not to mention it deliberately. Your point is totally right. What we know about the remarks -- out Kate Sullivan had reported and gotten a little bit of an early look at them. She does plan to, as Tim Scott did when he responded to Biden's State of the Union, but this America is not racist language forward. So, she is going to lean into -- I think one of the areas of sort of base Republican red meat is going to be this part of saying sort of like disparaging the 1619 project and the like.

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: And saying, you know, really affirming foundational principles. So, it'd be very hard for I think, in that moment, to then also leaning to this unity moment around the flag. I'll be fascinated to see if she actually uses it this culmination.

TAPPER: That flag put up at the South Carolina Capitol by -- if memory serves, then-Democratic governor Ernest Fritz Hollings. Am I right, John? All right.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And you see -- you see Mark Sanford, a former Republican governor who was Nikki Haley -- he endorsed Nikki Haley when she was number four in a primary -- Republican primary to succeed Mark Sanford as governor. So. she's never lost an election. She has been low before and come back to win.

Mark Sanford wanted to deal with this issue and he just couldn't. It was so complicated. Nikki Haley had this horrific tragedy to help her do it, but one of her arguments could be I can get things done. The question is, is that a primary message? Good luck.

TAPPER: It is definitely a message though. More survivors pulled from the rubble 10 days -- 10 days after that massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria, giving hope to rescuers that even more can be found. The latest is next.



TAPPER: Welcome back. Nikki Haley is being introduced right now by Congressman Ralph Norman for the launch of her presidential campaign there in Charleston. Norman previously endorsed Donald Trump, but this time thanking Donald Trump for his service and saying that it's time for a new generation of leadership. Let's listen in.


REP. RALPH NORMAN, (R-SC): For the very freedoms that we all enjoy and hope to pass on to future generations. A leader who will fight for America with an iron fist in a velvet glove. That is why I'm here in Charleston, South Carolina today to introduce to you a leader who will soon make history, folks, a leader who likes to say it's a great day in South Carolina but Nikki. I think it's -- now, it's a great day in the United States of America.

But, folks, let me - let me say I really don't know what title to introduce my good friend. Is it -- is it Madam Ambassador? Is it my future governor -- my friend, my governor? But here's how I'm going to introduce her. The future president of the United States joins me, Nikki Haley.

HALEY: Wow, this is fantastic. Thank you so much. It's a great day in South Carolina. Thank you all for being here. You know, I have to say before I start, I've got to give a shout-out to the people who took the podium before me. To Pastor Hagee, I still say I want to be you when I grow up. Thank you. Candice Glover, you are a star and a source of pride for South Carolina. That was amazing.

Katon Dawson, you will forever be the best party chairman South Carolina has ever had. To Cindy and Fred Warmbier and their family, you will always have my heart. Otto is so proud of you today. I know that. And to Ralph Norman, you know I would have been right there with you in Congress holding them accountable. God bless you. I love you. Thank you so much. I'm so glad to be with the people I love in the state I love to talk about saving the country I love.


I have always had a deep belief in America. But I know America is better than all the division and distractions that we have today. And I'm confident that the American people agree. We're ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.

I come here today with a vision of that future. I see a strong America, full of opportunity that lifts up everyone, not just a select few. I see a proud America, confident in who we are and what we stand for. And I see America leading the world in freedom and in peace. But this vision isn't just mine. It's the core of our nation's history. And it called to my parents over 50 years ago. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants and I am blessed that they are here today.

My parents left India in search of a better life. They found it in Bamberg, South Carolina. Population, 2500. Our little town came to love us -- our little town came to love us but it wasn't always easy. We were the only Indian family. Nobody knew who we were, what we were, or why we were there.

But my parents knew. And every day, they reminded my brothers and my sister that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America. They were right then and they're right now.

My parents came to a country that was gaining strength and growing in confidence. But that was then. Now America is falling behind. Our future is slipping. Our leaders are failing us. And no one embodies that failure more than Joe Biden.

Right now, in the greatest country in human history, we have too many families paying too much for groceries, too many mothers searching frantically for baby formula, and too many children who are so far behind in the classroom, they may never get ahead. We have too many small businesses who can't afford rent, and too many big businesses getting taxpayer bailouts. We have too much crime on our streets, too many drugs flooding our cities, and too few police and border patrol.

And from Joe Biden on down, our leaders put too much trust in big government and too little trust in the American people. They have spiraling towards socialism with a new trillion-dollar spending bill every few months and a national debt of over $30 trillion dollars. This is not the America that call to my parents. And make no mistake. This is not the America I will leave to my children.

We must stop socialism before it's too late. It's weakening America from within. But there's something else that's eating away at our national core. On Biden and Harris's watch, a self-loathing has swept our country. It's in the classroom, the boardroom, and the back rooms of government. Every day we're told America is flawed, rotten, and full of hate.


Joe and Kamala even say America's racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. The American people know better. My immigrant parents know better. And take it from me, the first minority female governor in history, America is not a racist country.

This self-loathing is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic. It's a system of a lack of pride in our country and a lack of trust in our leaders. And it ignores the values that have sustained America since our founding. I have traveled around the world and back. I've seen what else is out there. America isn't perfect, but the principles at America's core are perfect.

And the American people are not full of hate. We're full of love and we are sustained by faith. I always go back to the book of Joshua. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for God will be with you wherever you go.

Strengthening America, believing once again in America is the only way to defend ourselves from those who want to destroy us. When America's distracted, the world is less safe. And today, our enemies think that the American era has passed. They're wrong. America is not past our prime, it's just that our politicians are past theirs.

Joe Biden isn't leading from behind. He's not leading at all. On his watch, a terrorist mob conquered Afghanistan and killed our troops. Iran is on the brink of getting the bomb. North Korea is launching more missiles than ever. Russia started the biggest war in Europe in 75 years. And in communist China, we face the strongest and most disciplined enemy in history. It is unthinkable that Americans would look at the sky and see a Chinese spy balloon looking back at us.

China's dictators want to cover the world in Communist tyranny. And we're the only ones who can stop them. But let me be clear, we won't win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.

America is on a path of doubt, division, and self-destruction, a path of fading patriotism and weakening power. The stakes are nothing less than our survival. And you and I and every American is being summoned to bold action. And so, I have an announcement to make.

I stand before you as the daughter of immigrants, as the proud wife of a combat veteran, and as the mom of two amazing children. I've served as governor of the great state of South Carolina, and as America's ambassador to the United Nations. And above all else, I'm a grateful American citizen who knows our best days are yet to come if we unite and fight to save our country.