Haley tells Trump to 'say it to my face' after he questions her military husband's whereabouts

Election 2024 Haley
This combo photo shows Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, left, in Greenwood, S.C., and Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump in Conway, S.C., both on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. The race for the Republican nomination got personal Saturday when Trump questioned the absence of Haley’s husband on the campaign trail. (AP Photo, File)
Election 2024 Trump
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Election 2024 Haley
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event in Greenwood, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

GILBERT, S.C. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Saturday questioned why Nikki Haley’s husband wasn't on the campaign trail, drawing sharp responses from both the former U.N. ambassador and her husband, who is currently abroad on a National Guard mission.

“What happened to her husband?" Trump told a crowd in Conway, South Carolina, as he and Haley held events across the state ahead of its Feb. 24 Republican primary. "Where is he? He’s gone. He knew. He knew.”

Responded Haley in a post on X: “Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about.”

It's the latest example of Trump disparaging his opponents based on their U.S. military service, going back to his questioning of whether the late Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was a hero because Trump liked “people who weren’t captured." Throughout his political career, Trump has been accused of disregarding longstanding norms on avoiding attacking current or past servicemembers or people in a politician's family.

Michael Haley began a yearlong stint in June with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Haley is being deployed as a staff officer with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, which the National Guard says is providing support in the Horn of Africa.

Shortly after Trump's comments, Michael Haley posted a meme on his own X account with a picture of a wolf and the text: “The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack.” Nikki Haley's campaign confirmed the account belonged to her husband.

Trump has said he avoided service in the Vietnam War through student and medical deferments. And Trump’s wife, former first lady Melania Trump, has been absent from the campaign trail and has not appeared with him at a public campaign event since his announcement speech.

Haley has pushed Trump to debate her as she seeks to change the trajectory of the race after the former president and heavy front-runner won the first three primary states. She again challenged him at a campaign stop Saturday night.

“Donald, if you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face,” she told a crowd.

Haley’s surrogates also wasted no time addressing Saturday’s comments.

“When you start talking about a veteran serving overseas, I don’t care if you know them or not, that should make your heart sick,” said state Rep. Chris Wooten, who introduced Haley at an evening rally.

Haley expressed pride in her husband's service, adding that every military spouse knows military careers are a “family sacrifice.” As she has frequently done in speeches over the past year, Haley recounted her husband's difficulty readjusting to life after his deployment to Afghanistan. He couldn't tolerate loud noises, she said, and couldn't stand crowds.

People like her husband make such sacrifices “because they still believe in this amazing experiment that is America,” she said.

“If they're willing to sacrifice for us, shouldn't we be willing to fight for America here? Because we have a country to save,” said Haley, closing out her speech.

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Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

 

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