(WASHINGTON) — Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and new GOP presidential candidate, this week accused President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris of thinking America is racist, echoing past attack lines that Biden and Harris have dismissed.
“Every day we’re told America is flawed, rotten and full of hate. Joe and Kamala even say America is racist. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Haley, whose parents emigrated from India, said during her campaign launch speech on Wednesday. “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.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday declined to discuss Haley’s campaign launch when asked about her proposal for all politicians over 75 years old to take a mental acuity test, citing a law barring government employees from commenting on campaigns in their official capacities.
Citing a law barring government employees from commenting on campaigns while in their official capacities, Jean-Pierre said she couldn’t respond to anything Haley said.
“I’m going to be very careful as I am speaking about a candidate — she’s currently, as you well know, a candidate for 2024. So, I am covered by the Hatch Act. So, I am not going to speak to her directly and her comments specifically,” Jean-Pierre said.
Lines like Haley’s have been used to put Democrats on defense and to criticize what Republicans call a culture of needless racial division.
Haley has long pushed back on what she said in 2020 was the “lie” from Democrats that the U.S. is racist.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black Republican in the Senate who is also thought to be mulling a presidential campaign, said in his 2021 speech in response to Biden’s State of the Union address that year that “America is not a racist country.”
“Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. … It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination,” Scott said then, “and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”
However, Biden and Harris have both said they don’t believe America is racist while noting the country’s history, which encompasses centuries of slavery and legalized racial discrimination.
“No, I don’t think the American people are racist,” Biden told NBC News in 2021 after Scott’s response to his State of the Union. “But I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in the position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health, in terms of opportunity. I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and, before that, slavery have had a cost and we have to deal with it.”
Harris, in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in 2021, also said that she agreed with Scott’s view — to a point.
“First of all, no, I don’t think America is a racist country,” she said. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”
ABC News’ Chris Donovan contributed to this report.
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