Presidential candidate Nikki Haley faced backlash Thursday for her response to a question about the causes of the Civil War in a town hall meeting in New Hampshire.

At the event Wednesday, Haley said the Civil War was fought over “how the government was going to run,” after a questioner asked, “What was the cause of the United States Civil War?”

Haley paused and replied, “Well, don’t come with an easy question.”

She continued, “I think the cause of the Civil War was basically, how government was going to run — the freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.” The former South Carolina governor then asked the questioner, “What do you think the cause of the Civil War was?”

He responded, “I’m not running for president. I wanted to see what you think is the cause of the Civil War.” 

“I mean I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” Haley added to her response. “And I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people.”

She continued, “Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life, they don’t need to tell you what you can and can’t do, they don’t need to be a part of your life, they need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom. We need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties, so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they wanna be without government getting in the way.”

The man who initially asked question responded, “Thank you. And in the year 2023, it’s astonishing to me that you answer that question without mentioning the word, slavery.”

“What do you want me to say about slavery?” Haley asked.

“No comment,” he replied. “You’ve answered my question, thank you.” 


During a radio talk show with Jack Heath Thursday, she followed up her comments by saying, “I mean, of course the Civil War was about slavery,” per CNN. “But what’s the lesson in all of that?” she asked.

She continued, “That we need to make sure that every person has freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do and be anything they want to be without anyone or government getting in the way. That was the goal of what that was at. Yes, I know it was about slavery. I’m from the South, of course I know it’s about slavery.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., posted on X Thursday morning, “1. Psst Nikki... the answer is slavery PERIOD. 2. This really doesn’t matter because Trump is going to be the nominee. Trump 2024!”

President Joe Biden commented in an X post on Wednesday, “It was about slavery.”

While serving as governor of South Carolina in 2015, Haley approved legislation to remove the Confederate flag from the State House after the Charleston church shooting, when nine worshippers were fatally shot in a hate crime, according to ABC.