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Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate on November 8, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Friday said she did not agree with former President Donald Trump’s recent remark referring to his political opponents as “vermin.”
“The reality is I don’t agree with that statement any more than I agree when he said Hezbollah was smart, or any more than I agree when he hit Netanyahu when his country was on its knees after all that brutality,” Haley said at a town hall in Newton, Iowa.
“It’s the chaos of it all, right? I think he means well. But the chaos has got to stop,” she added.
Haley’s comments come as the former ambassador to the UN looks to distinguish herself from her former boss as she vies for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has heightened his rhetoric and sharpened his attacks in recent weeks as he retains a commanding lead.
In a speech in New Hampshire over the weekend, Trump told a crowd: “We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” and he warned that “the real threat is not from the radical right. The real threat is from the radical left, and it’s growing every day.”
An attendee on Friday asked Haley what she thinks “about that kind of language” coming from the GOP.
Starting off her answer, Haley said that she had a “good working relationship” with Trump but said that she often advised him on what not to say.
“And one of the things I would always tell him is you can be your own worst enemy,” she said.
Recent CNN polls show that Haley is becoming one of Trump’s strongest challengers. While the former president holds majority support in the early primary states of South Carolina and New Hampshire, Haley has moved ahead of Trump’s other rivals and holds second place.
Trump’s remark also drew recent criticism from President Joe Biden, who is looking to secure his own second term in the White House. Biden told donors at an event in San Francisco earlier this week that the former president’s use of the word “vermin” is “language you heard in Nazi Germany in the 30s,” and argued that Trump would use the presidency for “revenge and retribution” if elected again.
Haley argued Friday that Republican electoral losses last week were “chaos” and said the party has “got to start focusing.”
“So, it’s not so much about Donald Trump and, yes, his personality is not my personality. And yes, he says things he shouldn’t say. We look so distracted right now. And when America’s distracted, the world is less safe,” she said.
CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy and Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.