Former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley made contradictory statements on race while speaking Monday, the first night of the Republican National Convention.
Haley, whose parents are immigrants from India, said during her speech that “America is not a racist country.” Moments later, she said her family faced discrimination.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country,” Haley, the former Republican South Carolina governor, said.
She added shortly after that she is the “proud daughter” of Indian immigrants, pointing out that her father wore a turban and her mother wore a sari.
“I was a Brown girl, in a Black and white world. We faced discrimination and hardship. But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate,” Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, said. “My mom built a successful business. My dad taught 30 years at a historically black college. And the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor.”
Haley, whose parents are Sikh has, on several occasions, dealt with racism in both her personal and political life. When Haley ran for governor in 2010, prominent then-Republican state senator Jake Knotts referred to the candidate as a “f—ing raghead,” or someone who wears a turban.
“We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion,” Knotts said on an internet show, incorrectly referring to former President Barack Obama with the same term.
The former ambassador has also said in the past that she had been bullied in the past because of her background.
“I grew up in a small town where we were the only Indian family, and I was bullied because they didn’t know if I was black or if I was white,” she said. “All I knew was I was Indian. I was brown; and I was bullied because I wouldn’t take a side. … So I told my parents and my parents talked to the teachers, and we ended up educating the class.
Haley has drawn criticism in the past for equating the Confederate flag with “service and sacrifice and heritage” in the wake of the 2015 Charleston shooting.
And in 2011, it was revealed she had registered as “white” on her 2001 voter registration card.
The state Democratic Party, which first obtained the public record, is calling Haley out on the matter and challenging whether her inconsistency on the card might have made her ineligible to vote under the state’s new Voter ID law.
Following the incident, Democrat Dick Harpootlian, a South Carolina state senator and then-party chairman, accused Haley of invoking her race when convenient.
“Haley has been appearing on television interviews where she calls herself a minority — when it suits her,” he said. “When she registers to vote she says she is white. She has developed a pattern of saying whatever is beneficial to her at the moment.”