Nikki Haley gets grilled by Charles Barkley on "racist" debate: "That hurt me"

Beaufort, South Carolina - Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was pressed by CNN host Gayle King and former basketball player Charles Barkely about her claim that America "is not a racist country."

In a new interview, presidential candidate Nikki Haley (l.) was pressed by Charles Barkley on her argument that America "is not a racist country."
In a new interview, presidential candidate Nikki Haley (l.) was pressed by Charles Barkley on her argument that America "is not a racist country."  © Collage: Yulia Nikhinson / AFP & IMAGO / USA TODAY Network

The heat is being turned up on Donald Trump's opponent.

Haley sat down for a new interview this week with the two Black media stars, who pressed her on her comments from last month, which Barkley said left him "disappointed."

"Governor, I'm dying to vote for you, I mean that sincerely," Barkley began. "But I was upset when you made the reference that you didn't think America had racism."

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"My question is," he continued, "did you say that because you felt like you needed to say that to the audience?"

Haley responded by clarifying that she believes there is "absolutely" racism in America, and that she actually said that America "is not a racist country."

She went on to give her backstory on growing up as the only Indian-American family in a rural town in South Carolina.

"If my mom had told me that we lived in a racist country, I would have grown up never thinking I could be governor... never thinking I could run for president," she explained.

"But my mom always said, 'Your job is not to show them how you're different, your job is to show them how you're similar.'"

Nikki Haley defends her stance to the end

Nikki Haley speaking at her campaign rally in Greer, South Carolina on Monday.
Nikki Haley speaking at her campaign rally in Greer, South Carolina on Monday.  © Yulia Nikhinson / AFP

Throughout her campaign, Haley's views on race in America have been met with controversy, as she has adamantly pushed an "anti-woke" ideology while openly denying that the country continues to struggle with its painfully racist past.

During the interview, King also stepped in to press Haley specifically on her comment that America has "never been a racist country," which she says caught people "off guard."

"I don't think the premise of America was to be a racist country," Haley responded in further defense of her views. "I think that they said every man was created equal... I think the goal was always to have freedom."

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She went on to argue that while the country has "stumbled" along the way, "we have gotten past that."

The two hosts seemed to find her response satisfactory, as Barkley told Haley in the closing of the interview, "Stay in the race... you keep going, please!"

Cover photo: Collage: Yulia Nikhinson / AFP & IMAGO / USA TODAY Network

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