South Carolina governor Nikki Haley slammed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and his bigoted rhetoric on Thursday. Haley told reporters that Trump’s divisive speech is exactly what fueled mass murderer Dylann Roof to slaughter nine African-American people last June in the historic Emanuel AME Church.
Authorities have said that Roof, a white 22-year-old who has been arrested and charged for the massacre, was trying to kick off a race war with the killings. Haley said that she has repeatedly criticized Trump because she knows just what his brand of hate speech can lead to.
I know what that rhetoric can do. I saw it happen.
However, Haley said that she doesn’t believe Trump supporters are racists or haters themselves.
That’s a different kind of anger. They’re upset with Washington, D.C. They’re upset nothing’s got done,” she said. “The way he communicates that, I wish were different.
Haley added that Trump has a responsibility to the well-being of the United States to use a civil and respectful tone.
The governor also addressed the Confederate flag, which Roof had been photographed with before the slaughter at Emmanuel AME and was subsequently removed from Statehouse grounds less than a month after the shootings.
Haley said the flag had been “hijacked by that murderer” and simply had to go.
I don’t think they’re bad people,” she said, “I think they really were focused on heritage and sacrifice, but I think when that murderer kidnapped their flag and held it with hate and killed those people, there was just no other option.
She urged The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel in Charleston to send their flag to a museum as well. “You’ve got the museum right next door, so just take it from the chapel and put it in a museum and move on,” Haley said. But she noted that this was a decision to be made by the Legislature.
The governor also said that she had supported keeping the Heritage Act intact, which bars the altering of any public monument that honors historic figures or events without overwhelming approval by the Legislature. She explained why she did not want the removal of the flag on Statehouse grounds to extend to other historical monuments throughout the state at the time.
The state would’ve been torn apart if we’d started doing that,” she said. “We’d have disputes in every county and community and divide people. … Our goal was to hold everything together. Let’s be kind and accepting and understand history is just that — it’s history.
Haley supports the removal of the flag at various institutions throughout South Carolina, such as the one at the chapel and Clemson University, her alma mater. She also supports changing the name of Tillman Hall, which was named after a founder of Clemson who was a former governor and U.S. senator that liked to brag about killing black people. However, she still doesn’t think that it is necessarily a good idea to try to eliminate all Confederate commemorations throughout the state.
We can’t go and start changing everything. … The difference with the flag was it was a flying, living, breathing representative symbol,” Haley said. “I don’t see that in buildings and street signs.
Haley obviously recognizes the effect Trump’s bigoted rhetoric is having. Violent attacks against Muslims have increased and are now a common occurrence. White supremacists have flocked to his campaign and the KKK has repeatedly endorsed him. The governor is spot on. The filth that Trump continues to spew forth is dangerous. He has emboldened racists, who now feel justified in their bigotry and are no longer ashamed to flaunt their hate. Even if he doesn’t make it into the White House, the genie has been let out of the bottle and isn’t likely to be stuffed back in anytime soon.
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images