South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the Republican leader of an early-voting presidential primary state, said Tuesday that GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslim travelers from entering the United States is “un-American.”
“It’s just an embarrassment to the Republican Party,” Haley said during a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion. “It’s absolutely un-American. It’s unconstitutional. It defies everything this country was based on, and it’s just wrong.”
Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants whose father wears a turban as a part of his Sikh faith, would not suggest Trump supporters find another candidate.
“What’s important is that Mr. Trump has to be very careful about the things he suggests,” said Haley, who is considered a possible GOP vice presidential pick. “This is serious. This is a country we all hold dear, and it’s not about things to get political talking points.
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“We’re in a situation we have never been in before. We have to be very serious about this, and we have to think about every aspect of it before we open our mouths and say something.”
Efforts to reach three officials with the Trump campaign for response were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Trump’s proposal, which he announced Monday, came after a couple, who were Muslim, killed 14 people during a shooting spree at a San Bernardino, Calif., office party Dec. 2. The couple, killed in a firefight with police, had been “radicalized” for some time, the FBI said.
Several Republican leaders have criticized Trump’s proposed travel ban, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., former Vice President Dick Cheney and several of Trump’s competitors for the GOP’s presidential nomination. “His habit of making offensive and outlandish statements will not bring Americans together,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, tweeted.
Haley and Trump have ties. The New York business mogul contributed $7,000 to Haley’s two gubernatorial runs and $5,000 to a political group with ties to the governor. But Haley’s remarks Tuesday were not the first time that the GOP governor, who has said she could endorse a Republican presidential candidate, has taken issue with Trump during the campaign.
She admonished Trump for his combative tone in July, when the celebrity businessman called U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican who is running for president, an “idiot.”
For his part, Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” Tuesday, adding, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
On Monday, S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore tweeted his displeasure with Trump’s proposed Muslim visitor ban: “As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine.”
Still, Trump leads in S.C. polls, having the support of one of three GOP voters in advance of the state’s Feb. 20 Republican presidential primary.
Trump also remains a big draw at S.C. events. Trump has made three trips to South Carolina since Nov. 20, including a packed stop Monday at the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant for a Pearl Harbor Day rally. He is scheduled to appear Saturday in Aiken at a Conservative Leadership Project town-hall meeting with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington.