How Nikki Haley Clapped Back At Trump's Digs About Her Military Husband

Although she bowed out of the 2024 presidential race immediately following Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley's run wasn't a total flop — she still boasts a history-making achievement as both the first Asian Indian woman to vie for the White House, and the first woman to compete against a former president for the GOP nomination. Haley hoped her youth and moderate stance would appeal to certain Republicans, and that the rest would simply be relieved to have an alternative to Donald Trump and his often controversial actions.

Despite the fact Haley once served in his administration as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Trump pulled no punches in going after her. He repeatedly referred to Haley online as "Nimbra" or "Nimrada" — a deliberate misspelling of her given name, Nimarata — in an apparent racist jab. The former president also questioned Haley's eligibility for the highest office, on the grounds her parents weren't U.S. citizens when she was born. But when Trump aimed his sniping at the former governor's husband, she shot back. 

While at a February 2024 campaign event in Haley's home state of South Carolina, Trump suggested her husband wasn't interested in joining her rallies: "Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. [...] He's gone. He knew. He knew," (via ABC News). But Michael Haley wasn't just "away," he was on a year-long deployment to Africa as a major in the South Carolina Coast Guard — something his wife was only too happy to point out to Trump. 

Haley claimed that Trump's disrespect for the military makes him unfit for office

Even knowing Nikki Haley's husband, Michael Haley, was on military deployment, Donald Trump still used him as a punchline during the fight for the Republican nomination. After wondering aloud to a crowd of supporters where Michael was, the controversial politician quipped, "I think he should come back home to help save [Nikki's] dying campaign," (via ABC News). Trump's then-rival was quick to respond to those comments later that same day in her own South Carolina primary campaign appearance, saying in part: "If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don't deserve a driver's license, let alone being President of the United States," (via CNN). 

Nikki also addressed Trump's remarks on social media, reiterating on X, formerly known as Twitter, "Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about. Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief." Several users agreed with her sentiment, recalling this wasn't the first time that Trump was accused of slandering the armed forces either.

John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff under his administration, once told CNN that the former POTUS "thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all 'suckers' because 'there is nothing in it for them.'" Kelly also alleged that Trump refused to visit the French gravesite of American World War II veterans who lost their lives in combat.

Haley once praised Donald Trump's respect for the military

It may seem hard to believe now, but Donald Trump and Nikki Haley were once mutual supporters. In 2020, Haley even defended her former boss when Joe Biden criticized his stance on the military. Biden tweeted a campaign ad showing Trump's reported derogatory quotes about veterans, and wrote alongside it: "If you don't respect our troops, don't lead them." Haley fired back: "Biden should take this down. All of us who worked with @realDonaldTrump witnessed the tremendous amount of love and respect he has for our military. He was determined to protect them." 

Now it's President Biden who is defending the Haleys. Following Trump's "Where is her husband?" comments at the South Carolina rally, Biden clarified on X, "The answer is that Major Haley is abroad, serving his country right now. We know he thinks our troops are 'suckers,' but this guy wouldn't know service to his country if it slapped him in the face." To be fair, the controversial politician's remark was meant more as a dig at Haley's loyalty than her husband's military service. 

The full speech shows Trump recalling a day the Haleys approached him at Mar-a-Lago, where Nikki promised she would never run against him for president (via YouTube). Trump suggested Michael Haley was deployed overseas during Nikki's campaign to avoid being associated with that broken promise. Whatever the case, the former president probably shouldn't count on the Haleys' support going forward.