DeSantis-Linked Super PAC Uses Out-of-Context Quotes to Label Hillary Clinton As Haley’s ‘Role Model’

A TV ad from a super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary uses out-of-context quotes from Nikki Haley to misleadingly claim that Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee, is Haley’s “role model.”

The ad also says in words on the screen, “Nikki’s not who she says,” but the comments it refers to are no secret. In numerous interviews over the years, Haley — a former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — has told the story of how something Clinton said long ago about not listening to naysayers convinced Haley to first run for public office in South Carolina. She did not make the decision because she shared Clinton’s politics, as the ad may lead viewers to believe.

In fact, the ad uses clips that were edited to omit parts of those interviews where Haley said she does not agree with Clinton on “anything” or “a lot.”

Fight Right Inc., a group recently formed to support DeSantis, has spent more than $200,000 to air the anti-Haley ad in Iowa since Nov. 23, according to AdImpact, a service that tracks political advertising. The Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest in the Republican presidential primary, will be held Jan. 15.

2020 Interview

The ad begins with a narrator saying of Clinton, “We know her as ‘Crooked Hillary,’ but to Nikki Haley she’s her role model, the reason she ran for office.”

It then plays several clips of Haley talking about how Clinton motivated Haley’s first campaign nearly two decades ago. But the clips have been edited to exclude the context in which Haley made those remarks.

To start, the ad shows Haley stating in choppy fashion, “I often say that the reason I got into politics … was because of Hillary Clinton.” That comes from a July 2020 interview in which Haley recalled how she was considering running for South Carolina’s House of Representatives in 2003, when something Clinton told the audience at a Furman University-sponsored event that Haley attended that fall helped her make up her mind.

But the ad cuts out the part where Haley indicated that she and Clinton “don’t agree” politically. Here are Haley’s fuller remarks, which were made in the context of encouraging more women to seek political office (emphasis is ours):

Haley, July 2020: 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 was because of Hillary Clinton. I was at a Furman Institute event for women and 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.

2012 Interview

Haley had previously talked about this in a 2012 interview with David Gregory, who was then the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Clips of that interview, in which Haley was promoting her book “Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story,” also are shown in the ad.

When prompted by Gregory, who said that Haley had written about Clinton being a “big inspiration” to her, Haley mentioned how Clinton’s 2003 remarks had convinced her to start her political career despite others who had advised against it.

But the ad ignores the fuller explanation, including Gregory suggesting that Clinton had not inspired Haley “ideologically.”

Here’s more of the exchange between Haley and Gregory:

Haley, April 2012: I decided to run for the statehouse. Everybody immediately told me I shouldn’t do it. I was too young, you can’t do it with two small kids, you should start at the school board level. And one day I went with my friend Eleanor Kitzman to a Furman leadership program where Hillary Clinton was speaking and she said to a few hundred people, there are going to be tons of reasons why people tell you, you can’t do something, and she said and that’s the reason you absolutely have to. And I walked out of there and I said I’m running for office.

Gregory: So she was an inspiration, maybe not ideologically, but certainly in terms of a leader.

Haley: A strong woman that understood that people are quick to say no you can’t and that’s all the more reason why you have to push through it. I needed to show that moms can do this. I needed to show that wives can do this. I needed to show that age was not a limitation, or gender, or being Indian. And so it was proving as much to myself as it was everyone else. So, I appreciate her saying it. She said it at a time that was very important in my life.

2019 Interview

Haley told the story again in November 2019, when promoting another one of her books, at an event moderated by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

That’s when Haley said of Clinton, “she is actually the reason that I made the jump” — which is another clip shown in the ad.

But the ad excludes Haley also saying she “may not agree with her on a lot of things,” which she said just prior to the line the ad highlighted.

Haley brought up Clinton in response to an audience member’s question on “what led you to conservatism.” 

Haley said when she decided to run for South Carolina’s House of Representatives in 2003, she was considering if she would do so as a Republican or Democrat. It was after a conversation with a friend about the role of government that she realized she was a Republican, she said.

But in linking Haley to Clinton, the ad could mislead viewers about Haley’s politics.

“Nikki Haley credited Hillary Clinton with saying young women shouldn’t listen to critics who tell them not to run for office, but that’s where the praise ended,” Haley presidential campaign spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas told NBC News for a story about the ad.

“Haley has long said she doesn’t agree with Clinton on anything, and she’d be a disastrous president,” Perez-Cubas was quoted saying.

Fight Right leaves out the parts of Haley’s past interviews that would make her stance on Clinton’s politics clear to those who watch the ad.

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