Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley made an appearance Monday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to promote her new book, “With All Due Respect.”
Haley touched on topics ranging from difficulties she faced growing up Indian American in South Carolina to her later challenges as state governor removing the Confederate flag from the capitol building following the 2015 Charleston church shooting that left nine African Americans dead.
But she has been criticized in recent days for comments she made during an interview with conservative political commentator Glenn Beck.
Haley said Dylann Roof, the white supremacist behind the church shooting, “hijacked” the meaning of the flag, which for some meant “service and sacrifice and heritage.”
Those comments drew the ire of African American commentators and others who view the flag as a symbol of slavery.
On Monday in Yorba Linda, Haley didn’t back down from those comments.
“You had a group of people who looked at the Confederate flag, and they saw it as a symbol of their heritage and service and sacrifice,” Haley said. “Then you had another group that saw the Confederate flag as hate, and they saw it as pain. To try and reconcile those two groups was going to be incredibly difficult.”
Haley said the shooting and ensuing flag dispute was “probably the hardest” tragedy she dealt with as governor. She also criticized the media’s immediate focus on the racial and social divides implicit in the massacre.
“The national media wanted to define what the situation was,” Haley said. “They wanted to talk about death penalty, racism and gun control. I remember feeling like I had to keep my arms around the state because this was during a time of Ferguson and all the issues involved.
“You were watching states get ripped apart. I told the press there will be a time when we can have this conversation, but it is not now.”
Haley also spoke about her time serving as the ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, calling the president a “great listener” who “welcomes opposing views and opinions.”
Haley recalled a phone call between them leading up to Trump’s first speech at the United Nations in 2017, when he referred to North Korean President Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”
“I said, ‘Mr. President, I want you to know what you are walking into: the U.N. is a different animal — it’s serious,’ ” Haley recounted. “ ‘When you give your speech, it’s not going to be like a rally. They are not going to clap for you, but don’t take it personally. I want you to think of it like church.’
“Then he said, ‘I want to ask your advice on something. What if I refer to Kim as little rocket man in the speech?’ I said, ‘Mr. President, remember the part I said about church.’ He said, ‘I know, but I tweeted it out this morning, and it killed on Twitter.’ ”