Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said Wednesday that fellow candidate Nikki Haley “knew exactly what she was doing” when she failed to mention slavery as a cause of the Civil War at a town hall last week — in a moment that prompted broad criticism from Democrats, as well as her GOP primary opponents.
In an interview on “The View,” Christie said he was confident Haley, the former South Carolina governor, was “not a racist” but suggested she was “trying to be something [she’s] not.”
After co-host Sunny Hostin said Haley’s remarks on the Civil War “may have been stupidity,” Christie pushed back.
“Well, no, Sunny. I have to disagree with you. She knew exactly what she was doing,” Christie said.
“Even worse, then,” Hostin retorted.
Christie suggested he agreed, saying, “Oh yes, look. She’s a smart woman. I’ve known her for 13 years. She’s smart, and she’s not a racist. There’s not a racist bone in Nikki Haley’s body. There just isn’t.”
Fellow co-host Whoopi Goldberg paused at Christie’s comments and gently pushed back.
“Well, I got, I got to tell you. She better start working on that because it really didn’t come off that way,” Goldberg said. Hostin added, “It didn’t look good.”
“It never looks good when you’re trying to pretend to be something you’re not. OK. So she says that Civil War was about change versus tradition. And look, it’s pretty clear it was about right versus wrong,” Christie said.
“But the tradition was to enslave people,” Goldberg said.
“That’s right,” Christie said. “And that was a wrong, and our party was founded based on the abolition of slavery. That’s why the Republican Party started.”
The Haley campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked to expand on Christie’s comments about Haley, a spokesperson for Christie’s campaign referred to a recent town hall appearance in which Christie similarly said Haley was not a racist but was too concerned about appeasing voters.
“She’s smart and she knows better. And she didn’t say it because she’s a racist. Because she’s not … The reason she did it is just as bad, if not worse, and should make everybody concerned about her candidacy: She did it because she’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth,” Christie said in the remarks provided by a spokesperson.
Christie’s remarks continued: “If she is unwilling to stand up and say that slavery is what caused the Civil War because she’s afraid of offending constituents in some other part of the country, if she’s afraid to say that Donald Trump is unfit because she’s afraid of offending people who support Donald Trump, and because maybe she harbors in the back of her mind being vice president or being secretary of State and since she won’t deny it, we have to believe that she’s willing to do it … What’s going to happen when she has to stand up against forces in our own party who want to drag this country deeper and deeper into anger and division and exhaustion?”
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