Charleston Slayings Put South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in Media Spotlight

Nikki Haley
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The slayings of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last week have thrust the state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, into the national spotlight.

Haley seized the moment on Monday to call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in an eleven and a half minute news conference that was carried live on news outlets across the country. The extensive coverage underscores how deeply the nation has been jolted by the racially motivated massacre committed by a white gunman at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church on June 17.

In displaying what many commentators have praised as grace under pressure, Haley has undoubtedly taken a big step toward enhancing her credentials for national political office. Before her news conference was over, there was increased chatter on social media about her being a prime GOP vice presidential candidate in 2016.

Haley would also easily fit the bill for a role as a commentator or host of a talk show or roundtable show should she pursue such a path when her second term as South Carolina governor is up in early 2019.

She’s young (43), telegenic and comes from a multicultural background. She’s the daughter of Indian immigrants (her middle name is Randhawa), born in a South Carolina small town where she grew up keeping the books for her parents’ clothing store. In her address calling on the state legislature to vote to remove the flag, she noted that she is the state’s first “minority female governor.”

Haley has faced criticism that she did not act sooner regarding the removal of the Confederate flag from official South Carolina state offices. But there is no doubt that she is gaining stature on the national stage with her response to the slayings.

Haley has struck a tricky balance between acknowledging the range of feelings on the flag issue among her local constituents with responding to outraged calls from the outside for the state to take a symbolic step toward acknowledging that the Confederate flag represents the brutal institution of slavery. She has seized the moral high ground at a moment when it is impossible to deny that South Carolina and the nation at large are still suffering from the wounds from that legacy of oppression.

“The fact that it causes so much pain is reason enough to remove it,” Haley said plainly of the flag.

Barely an hour after her 4 p.m. news conference was completed, Washington Post correspondent Chris Cilizza, who covers the White House and pens the newspaper’s politics blog “The Fix,” noted how the response to the Charleston slayings has enhanced Haley’s profile with a post headlined: “Haley just showed her tremendous political upside.”

The instant analysis of Haley’s performance on Monday focused on her near-term political prospects. But in the glare of the spotlight, surely media execs were paying attention too.

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  1. Lucie says:

    The flag issue was something Haley could only address from a bully pulpit point of view. Removing it would be a legislative, not an executive, measure. Possibly a referendum. Unlike some people in executive office, Haley knows what her executive position does and does not allow her to do.

  2. C.D.Carney says:

    She is good at what she does. There was talk of a sex scandal that never went anywhere, there was talk of some financial issue but it failed to stick as well. She said if anyone could prove anything she would step down immediately- nothing happened because they were lies designed to stain a triple minority Republican- 100% Indian, woman, Sikh by birth. That she is so popular in her home state (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love her as she actually admits we the people have rights and doesn’t try to trample on them by imposing new restrictions) bothers the liberal Democrats in SC. They can’t make anything stick on her and I am hoping that she’ll rise to presidential level that she was hinted at since she spoke at the 2012 caucus. She won a second election and she has no blemishes on her. All she needs is some sort of foreign policy experience and she’d be a great candidate. Truthfully in all fairness there is no difference between her and Hillary Clinton when she, a simple lawyer who was married to the 2-term president, ran for a NY senate seat and did nothing meaningful until she ran for president and failed at her primary attempt. To her detractors- name a single thing Hillary had on her at that point in time. Nikki Haley is a governor with executive experience. She was also a state legislator at one time. In all fairness the only thing Hillary has on her is her short tenure as Sec of State in which everything she touched turned to… ash. To be fair and truthful- what experience does Hillary have that Nikki does not? Failed policies do not count… Nikki CAN be more than she is now if she has the proper handlers giving her advice. She is a younger, more successful (and less hypocritical) brunette version of what Hillary should have been and is marketed as. She is the female candidate the left wishes they had right now. If she were a Democrat she’d be on the national stage right behind Obama.

  3. jackdeth72 says:

    Memo to Variety:

    Stay away from topics and aftermaths you are not equipped or willing to understand.

  4. Jamie says:

    Talk about another fake Conservative. Far from it. She has compiled a list of ‘Conservatives’ in her state, and it is nothing but a bunch of moderates and even a few Liberals trying to slip into a conservative sheepskin.

    She is not ethical, she is not trustworthy, and she is not going to win another governorship election unless the Democrats vote for her.

    • C.D.Carney says:

      She already won her second term with a good majority. Hillary won’t be able to declare much more of a percentage if she wins the presidency.

  5. Bernard says:

    If Ms. Haley were a Democrat, the mainstream media would have made a star of this up and coming politician years ago.

  6. Richard says:

    Hats off and sympathy to the good people of South Carolina.

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