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The MRC's Limited Defense Of Nikki Haley

Compared with its highly active DeSantis Defense Brigade, the Media Research Center devoted relatively little space to Nikki Haley's presidential campaign.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/27/2024

In contrast to its rote defenses of Donald Trump (which it is apparently required to do due to its status as an arm of the Republican Party) and its incredibly busy DeSantis Defense Brigade, the Media Research Center devoted relatively little attention to defending Nikki Haley while she was running for president.

This limited defense actually started late last summer with complaints that non-right-wing media was too nice to her, relative to other Republican candidates. An Aug. 26 post by Mark Finkelstein noted that an MSNBC commentator called fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy “‘a charismatic charlatan,’ a smaller-scale Trump clone,” then groused that “the show showered praise on Nikki Haley”:

Of course, it was necessary for both [Katie] Phang and [Molly] Jong-Fast to preserve their liberal street cred by prefacing their praise by making clear that they disagree with Haley on the issues and wouldn’t vote for her. But that said, they did go on to praise what they saw as her being “sane,” and as they put it,  for “occupying Earth One.” (And not an alternative universe.)

As might be expected on the liberal network, the issue on which Haley was singled out for particular praise was that of abortion. During the debate, Haley told Pence that the candidates need to be honest with voters, and that there is no realistic way in which a national abortion ban could be passed since it lacks the necessary support in the Senate.


Phang accused both Ramaswamy and [Mike] Pence of “mansplaining” to Haley. In fact, all they did was disagree with her. Phang was the one who actually insulted Haley, by suggesting that because of her sex, she needs to be treated with kid gloves.

The same day, a post by Clay Waters similarly complained that non-right-wing commentators were being too nice to Haley for pointing out that Republicans shouldn’t be too extreme on abortion:

It’s clear who would win PBS’s vote for the Republican Party nomination: Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who in the first GOP presidential debate bowed to “reality” by declaring a federal law against abortion a non-starter.

On Friday’s edition of the channel’s political roundtable Washington Week with The Atlantic, guest host (and slanted White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour) Laura Barron-Lopez jumped off a snide point made by Todd Zwillich of Vice News about Trump fans’ attitude toward their “dear leader,” saying Trump’s supporters at the Republican debate in Milwaukee were in denial about how much a criminal conviction would hurt his election chances –“that’s a crowd that’s not contending with that reality, at all.”

Barron-Lopez seized the word.
Barron-Lopez: Speaking of someone who’s trying to get Republicans to contend with reality, for the first 50 minutes of the debate, there was policy discussion about climate change and on abortion. Former Ambassador Nikki Haley took a different position than most of the people in her party.
Politico’s Daniella Diaz agreed:
Diaz: I thought she really won the debate on Wednesday. She was the one that was being very rational....

But the MRC also didn’t like it when Haley was criticized. Nicholas Fondacaro was upset in an Aug. 28 post when commentators pointed out that candidates of color like Haley and Tim Scott face difficulties in a Republican Party that’s increasingly hostile to non-white people:

During Monday’s Morning Joe, white liberal Lauren Leader, the founder of All In Together, implicitly accused Republican presidential candidates former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott (SC) of being race traitors and trying to appeal to the racist Republican Party. She also had snide remarks for Haley about using her gender during the first Republican primary debate.

Leader was teed up by Way Too Early host Jonathan Lemire, who began by taking issue with Haley and Republicans for questioning President Biden’s advanced age and mental acuity (with NBC having found 68 percent of voters share that concern).

“It’s invoking President Biden’s age, suggesting that really this next election is about his vice president, Kamala Harris. You’d be putting her in charge. But Haley has been doing this by far the most explicitly. What is your read of the strategy?” he asked her.

As if it was a bad thing, Leader huffed that Haley was “certainly trying to play on the low approval ratings” Harris earned and accused her of using sexist “tropes” against women:


Leader continued by falsely suggesting “you see Nikki Haley doing some of the same things” when it comes to race. She went on to argue that Haley was walking “a really tight line” and trying to pull off “a complicated act” to appeal to those racist Republicans as a person of color herself.

Fondacaro didn’t actually disprove anything the commentators said.

Jorge Bonilla spent a Dec. 17 post insisting it was a good thing for Haley to whine about having to be asked about her primary competition in the Republican primaries:

ABC’s Jon Karl sat down with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, fresh off her endorsement by New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu for that state’s presidential primary. But although the venue was New Hampshire, the tone and tenor of the questions were pure Acela, and Haley made sure to communicate that to Karl.

Watch as Haley lets Karl know that his obsessions with Donald Trump are, in fact, exhausting:


The questions distill down to Trump and abortion, the Acela Media’s other obsession, with a bare minimum of questions on New Hampshire. This was not a serious, substantive interview of a candidate based on policy, but more of the same pointlessness from the Acela Media.

Haley was right to call Karl out, and she was right on the substance. The interview was exhausting.

Bonilla didn’t explain why Haley shouldn’t take questions about Trump. (And, yes, he’s still trying to make “Acela media” happen.)

Cleanup mode

An Oct. 8 post by Kevin Tober complained that Haley was called out for spouting the dishonest right-wing talking point that the $6 million the Biden administration released to Iran helped to fund Hamas’ attack on Israel:

On Sunday, the day after the horrific and unprovoked terrorist attacks by Hamas against the state of Israel, the Biden administration’s surrogates in the media have begun circling the wagons around the president and pretending that the $6 billion he provided Iran didn’t embolden Hamas’s reign of terror. The latest evidence of this came during NBC’s Meet the Press when moderator Kristen Welker argued with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley over whether the billions the U.S. gave Iran had anything to do with Saturday’s attacks. 

“Yesterday almost all of your Republican rivals blamed the Biden administration for this attack,” Welker huffed. “You just saw the Secretary of State effectively say there is no link between that deal and the horrific attacks that unfolded yesterday,” she added before asking the leading question: “Do you think it was irresponsible of your rivals to level that allegation without any evidence or proof?”

Haley responded by turning the “irresponsible” allegation around on Blinken and the Biden administration: “I actually think it was irresponsible for Secretary Blinken to say that the $6 billion doesn’t weigh in here. I mean, let’s be honest with the American people and understand that Hamas knows and Iran knows they’re moving money around as we speak because they know $6 billion is gonna be released.”

“They go and spread terrorism every time they get a dollar. It doesn’t go to the Iranian people, it does go to terrorist attacks, and Secretary Blinken’s just wrong to imply that this money is not being moved around as we speak to hurt those who love freedom,” Haley added. 

Welker bitterly interjected: “There’s just no proof of that yet. This was just the hours after that immediate attack. Is it irresponsible to level that charge when you really don’t have any evidence of that at this point in time?” 

“To think that they’re not moving money around is irresponsible to say that to the American people. They are moving money around to threaten those they hate,” Haley responded.

In fact, that money was Iran’s to begin with, the Trump administration had previously signed off on returning the money, and Iran, and a few days later the U.S. and Qatar, which was holding the money, agreed to block Iran from accessing it — meaning that Haley did, in fact, have no evidence to back up her claim. And Tober didn’t explain how Welker could be “bitterly” proving Haley to be factually wrong.

Alex Christy spent a Dec. 5 post complaining that Haley was fact-checked:

There are only three things certain in life: death, taxes, and professional fact-checkers condemning Republican politicians for lamenting the small size of the U.S. Navy. The latest installment in this nearly-decade long exercise of opinion-checking disguised as fact-checking came on Monday as PolitiFacat’s Louis Jacobson only gave presidential candidate Nikki Haley a “half-true” rating for her comparison of the American and Chinese navies, despite conceding she was completely correct.

The exact quote from Haley was that China has “the largest naval fleet in the world. They had 370 ships. They’ll have 400 ships in two years. We won’t even have 350 ships in two decades.”

Seems like a pretty straightforward fact-check and in the “if your time is short” summary, Jacobson writes, “Numerically, Haley is on target with both countries’ ship counts.”

However, Jacobson was unwilling to give Haley a true rating, “Military experts caution that other factors, including ships’ capabilities and advanced technologies, are just as important, if not more so. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has called ship counts ‘a one-dimensional measure.'”

This is not a fact-check; it is an opinion-check. 


PolitiFact should not be in the business of opinion-checking, but if it is going to insist, at the very least it should quote experts on both sides of the debate and let readers make up their own minds.

Christy didn’t explain why an opinion can’t be fact-checked if a factual claim is made in support of it.

When Haley goofed and failed to mention slavery as a cause of the Civil War, the MRC couldn’t be bothered to offer much of a defense. Mark Finkelstein merely noted in a Dec. 29 post that an MSNBC commentator “suggested that in doing so, Haley was misreading her core constituency.” Jeffrey Lord attempted more of a cleanup operation in his Dec. 30 column:

Catch that line about ‘Notably missing from her answer was slavery, which most mainstream historians agree was at the root of the United States’ bloodiest conflict, specifically the economics and political control behind slavery.”

And this line? “Democrats were quick to jump on her answer.”

So what’s missing in this reporting? The Times notes that Haley was silent about “the political control behind slavery.” Laughably, so was The Times.

When it comes to that “political control behind slavery” as I have noted in the past: 

“.... the number of Democratic Party platforms supporting slavery? There were 6 from 1840-1860.”

In other words, the Times is after Haley – she a woman of color who is running for the nomination of the one political party that was specifically created in opposition to slavery. And without a trace of self-awareness or irony, the paper goes on to accuse Haley and Republicans of “downplaying the nation’s sordid racial history.”


The Times silence on just which party was staunchly pro-slavery is well in tune with President Joe Biden’s silence when it comes to issuing a formal apology from the Democratic Party to black Americans for his party’s long, decidedly on the record, support of both slavery and segregation, not to mention the Klan.

Lord didn’t mention the fact that the stances on racial issues that Democrats had effectively abandoned by the 1960s have largely been taken up by Republicans.

Curtis Houck used a Jan. 18 post to whine about Haley being called out on a different issue, her claim that America isn’t a racist country:

Wednesday night on their low-rated CNN show King Charles, CBS Mornings co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King and the NBA on TNT’s Charles Barkley blasted 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley for her claim that America’s never been a racist country. However, the two went further with predictably liberal, 1619 Project tropes that “America was built on” both “racism” and “slavery.”

As Hillsdale College’s David Azerrad wrote in an compendious essay for Real Clear Public Affairs in 2020, this notion “is the great self-evident truth of the left and of the ruling class whose moral opinions are shaped by it” and wielded as “their most powerful political weapon” to lucrative financial benefits.


Pivoting to scorn, Barkley said to King’s disagreement that he wasn’t “surprised” by Haley being so “stupid”, adding “America was built on racism” as King chimed in that “America was certainly built on slavery.”

After the two stated their agreement with each other, Barkley tried to offer a more nuanced view that we’re allowed to “criticize” America since it’s “the greatest country in the world” and merely “turn[ing] on the TV” will show there’s “racism” out there.

Two different matters, Chuck. It’s generally agreed slavery was present and it was such a tenuous issue at the time that a civil war ensued. But calling America a racist country and was built on it flew in the face of the Declaration of Independence, the Abolitionist movement, the lack of explicitly racist laws today, and major pieces of legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Barkley and King — two of the highest-paid TV personalities, regardless of color — have to keep the grievance train afloat, so Barkley sounded off on Haley for saying “something that stupid, and that’s just stupid.”

It’s telling of the current right-wing attitudes toward race — which, again, are the same ones that they accuse Democrats of once holding — that Houck smears Barkley and King as racist grifters trying to “keep the grievance train afloat” for simply stating historical facts. And Houck nonsensically citing “the lack of explicitly racist laws today” as evidence the country wasn’t built on racism ignores the fact that were were, in fact, explicitly racist laws during much of this country’s existence which the country was, in fact, built on.

Defense evolves

As Haley eventually became the only real competition for Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, the Media Research Center’s limited defense of her evolved. A Jan. 15 post by Curtis Houck complained that the non-right-wing media focused too much on Donald Trump while talking to Haley:

Reacting to Monday’s results in the low-turnout Iowa caucuses, Tuesday’s CBS Mornings opened its second hour by demanding 2024 GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley to not only drop out, but harangue her with the usual issues that only the liberal media cared about as opposed to, you know, real Americans: the 2020 election and demanding Republicans say Donald Trump was “unfit” to return as president.

Ever-pious, fill-in co-host John Dickerson climbed aboard his high horse by first fretting Iowans voted for Trump in a blowout “despite all his legal challenges and what some call his extreme rhetoric.” Dickerson then turned his guns to Haley as she appeared live in New Hampshire: “Ambassador, all good presidents are tested by adversity. You have some. Why is this race not over?”

Haley noted “We’re just getting started” and votes in two more, totally different states in New Hampshire and South Carolina were up next on her docket for what’s actually “a marathon,” “not a sprint.”

Dickerson came off like the entire interview was a waste of his brain cells based on this ho-hum follow-up: “Anything you’re going to do differently, Ambassador?”

After Haley said she’s “a stone’s throw away from – from Trump” in the Granite State, Dickerson interjected to argue “30 points in Iowa is – is more than a stone’s throw.” Haley, to her credit, corrected him.

Having cried uncle, Dickerson returned to his pompous historian schtick and lectured Haley about how she and other Republicans were suffering from some physiological “obstacle” in being unable to say Trump’s “unfit to be president.”


Haley went on and on about telling voters “the truth” and “hard truth” because “[t]hat’s what people want”, but King doubled down: “I’m wondering – governor – I’m wondering, governor, do they really want the truth? Honestly – honestly, I’m wondering do they want the truth because you give them the truth but they still say nope, nope, nope, it’s not legit.”

Haley doubled down, adding she instead speaks “the truth about the things they care about” (instead of the media) like the economy and immigration since “[n]obody’s talking about the election of 2020.”

Jorge Bonilla complained in a Jan. 23 post that Haley was being criticized for not effectively attacking her main primary competition:

We are at the stage of the electoral cycle wherein drive-bys openly express their dissatisfaction at the insufficiency of an attack levied against a Republican- in this case, former President Donald Trump.

Watch as [Jen] Psaki and [Ali] Vitali commiserate over their dissatisfaction at Nikki Haley’s attacks on former President Trump, as aired on MSNBC’s Inside with Jen Psaki on Monday, January 22nd, 2024:


Is it the role of a Republican presidential candidate to “satisfy” these Democrat apparatchiks with an attack on the GOP frontrunner? It would seem so, given Vitali and Psaki’s response to what Haley was putting forth.


You never hear about such insufficiencies when covering campaigns against incumbent Democrats. It is at that point, precisely, that the journalists go from decrying the insufficiency of the attacks to decrying the attacks as disinformation. The naked partisanship is right there, on full display.

I don’t know what Psaki and Vitali were expecting from Haley, given that she is still competing in a (nominally) contested GOP primary. But such is the state of modern news analysis.

Given that Haley was running against Trump, why shouldn’t she be offering compelling reasons for primary voters to choose her instead of him? That doesn’t involve appealing to “Democrat apparatchiks” — that involves appealing to actual voters who want a reason to vote for her and not Trump. You know, the very thing campaigning is about.

When Haley did start to offer more pointed criticism of Trump, the MRC complained that it too was being praised. Mark Finkelstein groused in a Jan. 25 post:

CNN’s John Avlon has a habit that we’ve noted of cooking up a comment designed to focus attention on himself. But although he was on the CNN This Morning panel today, it was CNN host and commentator S.E. Cupp who grabbed the spotlight with a very vulgar line.

The subject was the state of Nikki Haley’s campaign. And Cupp argued that there is still demand within the GOP electorate for what Haley is offering.

Along the way, Cupp took a shot at Republicans who, in order to stay in the GOP “club,” sacrifice their principles and endorse Trump. She singled out Tim Scott, who endorsed Trump despite having, while Scott was still in the primary race, cast his campaign as a choice between “grievance and greatness.” In endorsing Trump, Scott claimed that his mention of “grievance” and “victimhood” was not a reference to Trump, but to Joe Biden. Riiight.

Cupp brought the segment to an end with this:
“Maybe one of the only people who can sidestep the great emasculation of the GOP by Donald Trump is a woman. Maybe, just maybe, Nikki Haley has more balls than the rest of them.”
John Avlon clapped. Queried co-anchor Poppy Harlow: “Title of your next book?”

Nicholas Fondacaro brought the flip-flop back to defense of Haley in a Feb. 14 post:

The liberal media had given themselves the title of the defenders of democracy, but they didn’t want to see democracy play out. That was obviously the case on Wednesday’s Today when NBC anchor Craig Melvin tried to bully former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley out of the Republican nomination race for president. As he should, Melvin got an earful when Haley called him “ridiculous” and told him off for pretending to be concerned about the GOP for the general election.

“He is clearly head and shoulders above the rest in terms of front-runner status, right now you would concede. What does that say about the party? Why has your message not broken through so far?” Melvin sniped at her.

She pushed back, suggesting, “Well, I think my message has broken through. Not only are we getting Republicans we’re getting independents, we’re getting Reagan Democrats. The people who want the anger to stop, the people who want the division to stop, and the people who want us to stop having 80-year-old candidates.”


This was another instance of the liberal media trying to meddle with the Republican nomination process and force it to end when they wanted it to.

The MRC, of course, had no problem when Republicans (and Rush Limbaugh) meddled in the Democratic nomination process with the goal of prolonging the campaign and making it end when they wanted it to.

Fondacaro was completely silent when Trump mocked Haley’s husband for being on military duty during the campaign, but he lashed out in a Feb. 23 post at “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin when she said that Haley “didn’t actually miss her military husband who was deployed in Africa. She called Haley’s emotions “inauthentic” and suggested she only cared about getting a bump in her approval rating.” He again spread the malicious lie that Hostin is “staunchly racist and anti-Semitic,” oblivious to the fact that he has been repeatedly proven wrong.

Tim Graham whined that the Washington Post accurately reported on the nature of the high school Haley attended, huffing in a Feb. 21 post that the Post article was a “hit piece”:

Over the years, we’ve witnessed many Washington Post hit pieces against Republican presidential candidates, and the most shameless ones are about what happened in their youth. One of the first ones to come to mind is Mitt Romney being attacked in May of 2012 for apparently being a vicious prankster who gave some other kid an involuntary haircut on the quad.

On Tuesday afternoon, Post reporter Michael Kranish – a man who used to buff the image of the lanky windsurfer John Kerry when he worked at The Boston Globe – put out a 3,000-word article trying to make Nikki Haley look bad. This was the headline:
Haley’s nearly all-White high school lacked lessons of racism, some say

Haley left her hometown’s integrated public school system and attended a high school newly created from the merger of two “segregation academies.”
An entire hit piece based on what “some say.” They mean what “liberals say.” 


Are they serious? Was South Carolina “segregationist” in 1986? If so, why was Nikki the Indian-American allowed?  Kranish hammered on the alleged lack of “lessons in racism,” especially about the “Orangeburg Massacre” in 1968, when three young black men were shot and killed by cops at a civil rights protest.

Graham didn’t dispute the fact that the school’s history was as a segregation academy. He returned for a March 3 post in which he rehashed the old complaint that Haley wasn’t asked questions about President Biden, whom she was not actually running against and would never run against given that she dropped out a few weeks later:

On NBC’s Meet the Press, host Kristen Welker’s big interview was with Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, which took up more than 17 minutes in the hour, with around 25 questions…and not a single question was focused on President Biden or the Democrats.

Later, when Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) was on, all her questions were about Biden, about how he’s dealing with “pro-Palestinian” voters, air drops in the Gaza strip, the border crisis, and if Biden has “urgency” on the latest bad poll for him (from The New York Times). Haley would have enjoyed answering those questions. But Welker preferred to talk horse race – when are you getting out? – and whether she would endorse Trump. The first 11 questions were all horse-race.

Then Welker turned to January 6, and whether Haley agreed with Mitch McConnell that Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the rioting. Haley argued that the pro-Trump rally demonstrated freedom of speech, but then it went wrong at the Capitol. 


This gave Welker the opening for the anti-GOP hardball: “What does it say about the state of the Republican Party that you’re saying that you don’t know if the GOP front-runner will follow the Constitution?”

Haley said “that’s not the Republican Party. That is Donald Trump,” and she repeated that the country could do better than Trump and Biden.

Graham didn’t explain why it’s “anti-GOP” to point out the fact that Trump has amply demonstrated he doesn’t particularly care about laws or the Constitution, given that he faces numerous charges for breaking the law.

When Haley offered her inevitable endorsement of Trump despite her criticism of him during the primary campaign, the MRC decided to weigh in over criticism of it. Finkelstein’s May 23 post, however, was largely about attacking the critics:

Even by his unhinged standards, Joe Scarborough’s tirade against Nikki Haley on today’s Morning Joe was remarkable in its outrage. Scarborough was infuriated by Haley’s explanation yesterday of why she will be voting for Trump, after being increasingly critical of him during her primary run.

And for the second time this week, Scarborough resorted to vulgarity. On Tuesday, Scarborough called “bullshit” on claims Trump is the victim of a double standard in being prosecuted for actions others wouldn’t be. Today, he condemned letting “shit” roll in permitting Haley to get away with her flip-flop.

Years ago, Morning Joe installed a seven-second delay when Scarborough dropped an f-bomb.  Will that be replaced by a warning signal to Joe if the end of a show approaches without him unleashing an obscenity?


Later, thrice-married adulterer Charlie Sykes sneered “this is peak Nikki Haley. She turns out to be very, very cheap date for Donald Trump…it’s so revealing about, first of all, you know, front and center, about her character.”

Try calling a liberal lady a “very very cheap date,” Charlie, and prepare to be flooded with accusations of sexism, misogyny, and slut-shaming.

We would remind Finkelstein that his MRC boss, Tim Graham, tried to slut-shame Monica Lewinsky over her dalliance with Bill Clinton, and he hasn’t said a peep about that (though Graham did get heavily ratioed over it). Finkelstein failed to mention that Trump is also a thrice-married adulterer, and he has never expressed any public concern about that — meaning that his raising that claim about Sykes is irrelevant to the conversation.

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