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Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appears with then-presidential candidate Marco Rubio in Chapin, S.C., on Feb. 17, 2016.
Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appears with then-presidential candidate Marco Rubio in Chapin, S.C., on Feb. 17, 2016. Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images file

A timeline of Nikki Haley’s past Trump statements

Haley was initially a sharp critic of Trump, but she went on to join his administration and support his re-election in 2020.


Former South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley’s entrance into the presidential race this week is shedding new light on her past criticism and contradicting statements about former President Donald Trump. 

Haley is the first Republican to officially take on Trump for the GOP nomination, and, like many Republicans, she has evolved from a harsh Trump critic to an ardent supporter. Despite criticizing the former president after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, she continued to stress that he helped the GOP win over new supporters. 

From early critic to Trump’s team

Haley was a sharp critic of Trump during his first campaign in 2016, backing two other GOP contenders before saying she would vote for Trump after he became the party’s nominee. After she joined his administration, she went on to become a Trump supporter, encouraging voters to support his re-election in 2020. 

  • Jan. 13, 2016: In her response to then-President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Haley urged Americans not to follow “the siren call of the angriest voices.” The next day she told TODAY that Trump was one of the voices to whom she was referring, saying, “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” 
  • Feb. 16, 2016: Haley said she had not decided who to endorse in the GOP primary, but she wouldn’t be backing Trump, saying he is “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president.”
  • Feb. 29, 2016: At a rally for GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, who Haley had endorsed in the primary, Haley said of Trump, “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we are,” according to the New York Times.
  • July 20, 2016: Asked at the Republican National Convention if she would  be endorsing Trump, Haley told MSNBC, “Of course.” She said, “I would not be here if I didn’t want to make sure that Hillary [Clinton] was not going to be the next president.”
  • Nov. 23, 2016: Trump nominated Haley to be the ambassador to the United Nations, which Haley said she accepted out of a “sense of duty.” 
  • Sept. 7, 2018: Haley defended Trump after a senior administration official published an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times. “I proudly serve in this administration, and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country. But I don’t agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it,” she wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post. 
  • Aug. 24, 2020: Haley spoke at the 2020 Republican National Convention, encouraging voters to support Trump’s bid for a second term. “Donald Trump has always put America first. And he has earned four more years as president,” she said

After the Jan. 6 riot

After a mob of Trump’s supporters rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, echoing Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, Haley was sharply critical of Trump and said the GOP should move on from his leadership. But she later walked those comments back, saying the party needed him. 

  • Jan. 7, 2021: Haley said at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting that Trump “ was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
  • Jan. 12, 2021: In an interview with Politico, Haley said of Trump, “We need to acknowledge he let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.” 
  • Jan. 25, 2021: Haley told Fox News, “We should not want to go back to the Republican Party before Trump,” noting the people he brought into the GOP. She added that Trump’s actions since Election Day were “not his finest,” but opposed his impeachment. She said of Democrats in Congress, “They beat him up before he got into office. They’re beating him up after he leaves office. I mean at some point, I mean, give the man a break. I mean, move on.” 
  • Feb. 17, 2021: Haley wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that her comments about Trump were not contradictory. “We should embrace the successes of the Trump presidency and recognize the need to attract more support,” she wrote. She later added, “Most of Mr. Trump’s major policies were outstanding and made America stronger, safer and more prosperous,” she wrote. “Many of his actions since the election were wrong and will be judged harshly by history. That’s not a contradiction. It’s common sense.” 
  • Oct. 5, 2021: Haley told the Wall Street Journal, “There was fraud in the election, but I don’t think that the numbers were so big that it swayed the vote in the wrong direction.” She again said of Trump, “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.” 

2024 run

Haley initially said she would not run for president if Trump decided to run again, but has since walked back those statements. 

  • April 12, 2021: Haley told the Associated Press that she would support Trump if he runs for president again saying, “I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it.”
  • Jan. 19, 2023: Even after Trump had jumped into the race, Haley did not rule out a run for the White House herself, telling Fox News, “So do I think I could be that leader? Yes, But we are still working through things and we’ll figure it out. I’ve never lost a race. I said that then I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now.”

CORRECTION (Feb. 15, 2023, 6:41 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the date that Haley spoke to the RNC. The speech was delivered on Aug. 24, 2020, not Aug. 25.