Is Nikki Haley’s book full of lies?

Supposed Romney running mate front-runner under fire for memoir distortions

Topics: Nikki Haley, 2012 Elections, 2010 Elections, Mitt Romney, Memoirs, Political Books,

Is Nikki Haley's book full of lies?Nikki Haley (Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer)

Hm. As Mitt Romney begins to seriously consider running mates, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley again finds herself under fire. This time, the State newspaper has taken her to task for twisting the truth in her memoir, “Can’t Is Not an Option.” (That is for real the title of her memoir.)

Every politician’s memoir, especially if written while the author is still in office, is a series of self-serving half-truths. There’s really not much benefit to total and complete honesty, and most politicians are convinced enough of their own righteousness that they probably don’t even think of their omissions and distortions as dishonest. So, everyone Haley trashes in her book says she is lying. That is not that surprising!

Among the points of contention:

  • Haley omits examples of her own hypocrisy. She attacks lawmakers who don’t disclose their sources of income, then dismisses a controversy over her old “consulting” job with a firm seeking legislative favors as “character assassination.”
  • She attacks S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (GOP) for opposing a reform bill she championed, including a supposed conversation in which he said something haughty and corrupt-sounding. (“We’ll decide what they need to see and what they don’t.”) Harrell says the conversation never happened (and that Haley cynically positioned herself as an “outsider” after spending time in the House leadership).
  • She writes that two of her opponents actually high-fived each other at a debate the day a second man accused Haley of carrying on an extramarital affair: “Then, just as the lights came down and the cameras started to roll, I looked over and saw the two men high-five under the table.” The men say that didn’t happen. Furthermore, you cannot “high-five” under a table.
  • She claims that a consultant took down her campaign website as part of a “dirty trick.” The “trick” was that the guy who built her site was working for a different gubernatorial candidate, and when she announced her candidacy for governor, he told her she’d have to move her site to a different server.
  • She accuses her Democratic opponent of running a campaign based on “character assassination and guilt by association.” Her opponent says his campaign was based on issues and her campaign engaged in character assassination. (This is the dumbest/most subjective example of a mistruth, obviously.)
  • Haley says the Legislative Black Caucus complained about a lack of diversity in her cabinet, but didn’t offer any qualified minority or female candidates for posts. The Legislative Black Caucus says they offered her a list of a dozen qualified people whom she did not appoint.


Haley is constantly playing the victim card — everyone who ever opposed her engaged in character assassination or worse — and highlighting her independence from the S.C. political establishment. Because she’s a politician. Even though she clearly made up some of the details and conversations in her memoir (under the table high-five!) none of it will kill her career. (It’s probably a bad idea to put quotation marks around words you’re putting in other people’s mouths, but every other S.C. pol is less famous than her, so their objections won’t matter.)

What may hurt her career, though, is trashing everyone else in her state. In attacking, often viciously, nearly everyone in the South Carolina legislative leadership in both parties and even her own lieutenant governor, Haley is not making it easy for herself to actually work with these people. Which suggests that maybe she has … grander ambitions than remaining governor of South Carolina.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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