Trump ripped for playing "race card" with false new "birther" attack on Nikki Haley

Trump's claims are "totally baseless as a legal and constitutional matter," said legal scholar Laurence Tribe

By Gabriella Ferrigine

News Fellow

Published January 10, 2024 12:40PM (EST)

Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump wait for a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump wait for a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump has once again turned to nativism and fraudulent "birther" claims as a method of undermining his political rivals. Trump on Monday posted a phony report from far-right outlet The Gateway Pundit to his Truth Social account claiming that Nikki Haley's parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth, thereby disqualifying her "from presidential or vice-presidential candidacy under the 12th amendment."

Trump's pushing of the false birther claim comes as Haley, one of his top GOP opponents for the 2024 presidential election, closes in on his lead in New Hampshire. A new CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire showed that Haley has garnered 32 percent of likely votes from GOP primary voters compared to Trump's 39 percent. As noted by NBC, Haley has been a U.S. citizen her entire life — though her Indian immigrant parents were not yet American citizens at the time of her birth in South Carolina in 1972, the 14th Amendment stipulates that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens.

Haley is not the first political adversary that Trump has targeted regarding citizenship. He previously peddled an inaccurate and racist narrative that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii, and in 2011, stated that Obama's birth certificate was fake.

As noted by HuffPost, Trump had purported the claim so frequently that in 2016, when Haley was acting as governor of South Carolina, she jested that he might do the same to her.

"Even though I gave the [State of the Union] response, I won’t really feel like I made it until Donald Trump demands to see my birth certificate," she said at the Gridiron Dinner in Washington, D.C.

In September of 2016, Trump flipped on a dime, conceding that Obama was U.S.-born.

Trump in 2020 advanced similar claims about Vice President Kamala Harris, who was born in Oakland, Calif., to Indian and Jamaican immigrants. The ex-president launched a similar attack on Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was born in Canada (Cruz's mother was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth.)

We need your help to stay independent

“The birther claims against Nikki Haley are totally baseless as a legal and constitutional matter,”  longtime Harvard legal scholar Laurence Tribe wrote in an email. “I can’t imagine what Trump hopes to gain by those claims unless it’s to play the race card against the former governor and UN ambassador as a woman of color — and to draw on the wellsprings of anti-immigrant prejudice by reminding everyone that Haley’s parents weren’t citizens when she was born in the USA.”

MSNBC columnist and former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance called Trump’s scrutinizing of Haley's citizenship "an offensive question that’s contrary to American values." 

“The Founding Fathers imposed a restriction, but it’s hard to believe that it was meant to burden a second generation of American citizens born on American soil like Nikki Haley," Vance added. "But nonetheless, the question of the term ‘natural born citizen’ has not been fully fleshed out in the courts, and it may be that Trump is relegating us to more meaningless discourse in this area just like he did with the birther lies about Obama.”

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a news fellow at Salon. She began writing at a young age, inspired by the many books she read as well as the world around her. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Currently, Gabriella is pursuing an M.A. in Magazine Journalism at NYU. Prior to working at Salon, she was a staff writer at NowThis News.

MORE FROM Gabriella Ferrigine

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Barack Obama Donald Trump Kamala Harris Nikki Haley Politics Ted Cruz