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Likening Nikki Haley to Clinton, Ads From Pro-DeSantis Super PAC Fall Short

Likening Nikki Haley to Clinton, Ads From Pro-DeSantis Super PAC Fall Short


In Republican politics, being likened to a prominent Democrat like Hillary Clinton may well be among the highest of insults.

Some G.O.P. presidential hopefuls and their allies are seizing on that comparison to denounce Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who has gained momentum in the primary race. During the Republican debate in Alabama on Wednesday, for example, the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy criticized Ms. Haley for giving “foreign multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton.”

In particular, though, supporters of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida have leveraged that line of attack, including in advertisements by a pro-DeSantis super PAC, Fight Right. But the ads trying to tie Ms. Haley to Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state, make claims that are misleading.

Here’s a fact-check of some of those claims.

WHAT WAS SAID

“We know her as Crooked Hillary, but to Nikki Haley, she’s her role model, the reason she ran for office.”
— Fight Right in an advertisement

This is misleading. Ms. Haley has said on multiple occasions over the years — including in a 2012 interview with The New York Times — that Mrs. Clinton inspired her to run for office. Specifically, a speech by Mrs. Clinton in which she discussed the importance of women in public office was a motivating force. But Ms. Haley has also emphasized their policy differences, which the ad omits, and spoke out against the prospect of Mrs. Clinton winning the presidency in 2016.

The ad at one point shows Ms. Haley saying, “I often say that the reason I got into politics was because of Hillary Clinton.”

But the ad omits criticism of Mrs. Clinton that Ms. Haley included in that remark, which is from an interview in July 2020 with the Women & Politics Institute at American University.

Asked to share her thoughts on the women who ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary and perceptions around their electability, Ms. Haley replied: “I think that we had some strong women that ran for office. And I respect any man or woman that puts their hat in the ring. I really respect all the women that put their hat in the ring.”

She continued, “You know, I often say that the reason I got into politics — believe it or not, I don’t agree with anything that she has to say — but it was because of Hillary Clinton.”

Ms. Haley then referred to a speech Mrs. Clinton gave in 2003 to Furman University, in Greenville, S.C.

“She was the one that said for all the reasons people tell you you shouldn’t run, those are the reasons you should. And I walked out of there and decided to run for the statehouse,” Ms. Haley said.

Ms. Haley was elected to South Carolina’s House of Representatives in 2004.

WHAT WAS SAID

“Haley raised taxes like Hillary.”
Fight Right in an ad

This is misleading. The ad cites a bill that South Carolina lawmakers passed in 2006 that raised the state sales tax by one percentage point. But that measure also exempted owner-occupants from paying property taxes for schools, among other provisions. Ms. Haley was a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The legislation was described by experts as a “tax swap” and an analysis at the time projected that most homeowners would have an overall decreased tax burden.

“This was a tax swap, not a tax increase,” Jared Walczak, the vice president of state projects at the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning think tank. “It’s fair to question whether the swap was a good one, particularly the policy of exempting homeowners from school property taxes, while leaving them on commercial property, including rental properties. But it is inaccurate to characterize the legislation a tax hike.”

Tax overhaul measures often include increasing revenues in one area to pay down reductions elsewhere, Mr. Walczak said in an email. “If the net effect is revenue neutral or a reduction in collections, such policies are not conventionally viewed as raising taxes.”

He added, “Such a definition would allow significant tax cuts, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act adopted during the Trump administration, to be characterized as raising taxes.”

The Fight Right ad also cites an article by Fox Business in the fall about Ms. Haley and South Carolina’s gas tax — the subject of misleading claims by another pro-DeSantis super PAC. Ms. Haley did not increase the gas tax as governor. She resisted calls to raise the gas tax as a stand-alone measure, but proposed raising the tax only if the state also reduced the income tax rate to 5 percent, from 7 percent, and made changes to the state’s Transportation Department.

Fight Right did not respond to requests for comment.

WHAT WAS SAID

Nikki Haley “backs open borders like Hillary.”
— Fight Right in an ad

This is false. There is no evidence that Ms. Haley supports “open borders.” In fact, she has repeatedly called for the United States to close the southern border.

In April, Ms. Haley posted a video on social media while visiting the southern border and criticized chain-link fencing as insufficient.

“We need to finish what we started, whether it’s this or this — we need something,” Ms. Haley said, motioning to a portion of the wall that she said had been built under the Trump administration as well as a tall fencing system. “But a chain-link fence, that’s not going to stop anybody and that’s why we see so many illegal immigrants coming across.”

During her campaign for the Republican nomination, Ms. Haley has proposed reworking the immigration system to legally admit people to the country based on merit, rather than quotas.

“Now, when it comes to legal immigration, it’s a broken system — it shouldn’t take someone 10 years to become a citizen,” Ms. Haley said last month in New Hampshire. “But what we need to do is reform it.”

“So for too long, Republican and Democrat presidents dealt with immigration based on a quota,” she said. “We’ll take X number this year, we’ll take X number next year. The debate is on the number. It’s the wrong way to look at it. We need to do it based on merit. We need to go to our industries and say what do you need that you don’t have? So think agriculture, think tourism, think tech. We want the talent that’s going to make us better.”

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com.





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