Former South Carolina House of Representatives Democrat Bakari Sellers referred to Nikki Haley, an Indian American and Republican presidential candidate for 2024, as a “white governor from the deep south” during an interview on CNN this week.
After Haley took part in a CNN town hall to promote her campaign, Sellers, an attorney and political pundit for CNN, made the remark on a CNN panel. He spoke on Haley’s response to the 2015 Dylann Roof incident, which resulted in the deaths of nine African Americans.
According to Sellers, “But there also has got to be some recognition provided to a white governor coming from the deep south for being able to attend all nine funerals, since I observed the state of exhaustion on her face, being a leader throughout that time, and for being able draw people together.”
Nachama Solveikchik, the head of communications for Haley, tweeted:
“Did @Bakari_Sellers really just refer to Nikki Haley as a ‘white governor’? Such a joke.”
Sellers seemed to be corrected by panel moderator and CNN Anchor Kaitlin Collins, who said, “And furthermore she is the first woman who is African-American that will be running in this, I should mention.”
During the panel, Sellers subsequently acknowledged his error and said, “And I made a mistake before — I called her a white governor. She happens to be a governor of color, I should add.”
Why Sellers first referred to her as “white” is unclear.
Sellers is from the very same South Carolina county that she is from, according to his own remark, and is acquainted with her history.
In a press statement, Haley’s team attacked the CNN panel and Sellers for referring to Haley as a “white governor”:
“Did they watch the same Nikki Haley town hall as the rest of the country? Haley answered questions from Iowa voters and CNN presenter Jake Tapper for 90 minutes. On contentious topics including abortion, entitlement reform, government spending, her disagreements with Donald Trump, the Russian invasion in Ukraine, China, and removing the Confederate flag, she provided thoughtful responses.”
“What are the panelists’ opinions? They made an attempt to criticize Haley for not discussing their favored subjects—race and abortion—enough. Haley was also criticized by a panelist who called her a ‘white governor.'”
“In many town halls, only Nikki Haley has engaged with actual voters and answered their questions,” according to Soloveichik’s statement in the press release. “She has published conservative policy proposals on a variety of topics and spoke about several of those topics today. Voters like Nikki Haley because she won’t give in to lefty talking heads.”