Fact Check

Did Nikki Haley Say Hillary Clinton Inspired Her To Get into Politics?

"I couldn't get past so many of her problems and policies that I thought were bad for the country," Haley wrote in her 2019 book.

Published Jan 24, 2024

 (From left to right: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; Mark Case/Getty Images)
Image Via From left to right: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; Mark Case/Getty Images
Claim:
Republican 2024 presidential candidate Nikki Haley said in 2020 that former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was her inspiration for getting into politics.

On Dec. 7, 2023, a tweet published on X (formerly Twitter) claimed that Nikki Haley, candidate in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries, was inspired to run for office by Hillary Clinton. The post received more than 23,700 views, as of this writing.

More recently, a tweet from Jan. 8, 2024, claimed that Haley denied this: "She said 'I never said Hillary Clinton inspired me to run for office.'" That tweet received more than 454,500 views, as of this writing.

Tweets we found pertaining to this particular connection between Haley and Clinton go back as far as 2012.

Haley did indeed say that Clinton had inspired her to get into politics, but without context, it could appear as though Haley had informally endorsed Clinton's policies. This was not the case. The first instance of her publicly stating that Clinton was the reason she got into politics appeared in a 2012 interview with The New York Times. According to the exchange:

Q: Why are there so few women of your generation in high level politics?

A: It’s not because the challenge is too hard. It’s simply because women don’t run. The reason I actually ran for office is because of Hillary Clinton. Everybody was telling me why I shouldn’t run: I was too young, I had small children, I should start at the school board level. I went to Birmingham University, and Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker on a leadership institute, and she said that when it comes to women running for office, there will be everybody that tells you why you shouldn’t but that’s all the reasons why we need you to do it, and I walked out of there thinking “That’s it. I’m running for office.”

One clip frequently cited originated from a virtual interview held by the American University School of Public Affairs on July 22, 2020.

The script of the relevant portion of the interview is as follows:

Interviewer: I'm curious about your reflections on the campaign at this time and it's not in your party of course, but we did have several women running for president in the Democratic party. As just an observer of politics, what were your thoughts on how they were perceived, this whole notion of electability, that discussion that was going on, what are your thoughts as you reflect on that primary campaign, the Democratic party?

Haley: 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 women that put their hat in the ring. 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 state House.

Less than a year earlier, Haley's book, "With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace," was published. In it, she also wrote her thoughts on Clinton as follows:

Clinton's nomination was obviously historic, in that she was the first woman nominated for president by one of the major parties. I didn't know her, although I had met her several years before at a women's professional event in Greenville, South Carolina. At that event, she had inspired me to run for office and make my voice heard. And in some ways she remained inspiring. But I couldn't get past so many of her problems and policies that I thought were bad for the country. As I had made clear during the primaries, I had reservations about Donald Trump, but I had more about Hillary Clinton. I didn't feel bad at all voting against someone who would have been the first female president. I'm absolutely convinced that America will have a woman president someday, and I look forward to that day. Clinton was just not the right woman as far as I was concerned.

Haley did later once deny that she said Clinton was her inspiration, though she did not specifically deny Clinton had inspired her to run for office, as the aforementioned tweet by X user @LauraLoomer claims (She said “I never said Hillary Clinton inspired me to run for office.”); rather, she was quoted as saying the following during an interview on Fox News on Jan. 8, 2024 (beginning at 06:47 timestamp).

I never said that she was an inspiration. What I said is when I had not been in politics and I was looking at running for office, I went to a women leadership forum and one of the speakers was Hillary Clinton. And she said "for all the reasons people tell you not to run, those are all the reasons that you should." And so when I spoke about it, if you took it all in context, I said I don't agree with a single thing she believes in, but this is what happened and this is how I got involved in politics.  

In sum, Haley stated on multiple occasions that she was inspired to go into politics after hearing Clinton speak at a forum. However, in doing so, she did not intend to align herself with Clinton's policies, beliefs, or politics in any way.

Sources

Aubrie Spady, Gabriele Regalbuto. ‘How to Watch Fox News’ Town Hall with Nikki Haley’. Fox News, 8 Jan. 2024, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/how-watch-fox-news-town-hall-nikki-haley.

Haley, Nikki R. With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace. St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2019.

‘Https://Twitter.Com/EMB_MAGA_2024/Status/1749804483159437443’. X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/EMB_MAGA_2024/status/1749804483159437443. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

‘Https://Twitter.Com/Justredpillme/Status/1732862105005507046’. X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/justredpillme/status/1732862105005507046. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

‘Https://Twitter.Com/LauraLoomer/Status/1744499683639095769’. X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/LauraLoomer/status/1744499683639095769. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

‘Women on Wednesdays’ with Amb. Nikki Haleywww.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS8jRCgZQok. Accessed 23 Jan. 2024.

Taija PerryCook is a Seattle-based journalist who previously worked for the PNW news site Crosscut and the Jordan Times in Amman.