Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, now running for president in a crowded Republican field, appeared at a live CNN Town Hall on Sunday in an attempt to distinguish herself from her 2024 GOP presidential rivals, which includes former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
During the hour-long town hall, moderated by Jake Tapper, Haley took on the feud between Disney and DeSantis, saying he should stop wasting taxpayer money on his personal dispute with the company.
“Because they went and criticized him, now he’s going to spend taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit,” Haley said. “Pick up the phone, deal with it, settle it the way you should. I think he’s being hypocritical in that.”
Disney is suing the governor and the board that he installed as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s board, the group that replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney’s self-governed board, earlier this year.
Haley also criticized DeSantis for previously accepting political contributions from Disney and helping to build the company’s presence in the state.
“Here you have DeSantis, who accepted $50,000 in political contributions from Disney,” she said. “He went and put their executives and their lobbyists on prominent boards throughout Florida. And he went and basically gave the highest corporate subsidies in Florida history to Disney. But because they went and criticized him, now he’s going to spend taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit. It’s just like all this vendetta stuff. We’ve been down that road again.”
She also stated that she didn’t think Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law went far enough. “I’ve been on record,” Haley said. “They should not be talking about gender (in the schools). Period. That’s what parents talk to their kids about.”
Taper also asked Haley her views on “woke culture.” “Woke used to be used by progressives to talk about and awareness of inequities and historical inequities,” Taper said. “But obviously it means something else to conservatives.”
Haley responded: “I mean, you want to start with biological boys playing in girls sports? That’s one thing, the fact that we have gender pronoun classes in the military now, I mean, all of these things that are pushing what a small minority want on the majority of Americans.”
She added: “It’s too much.”
When asked about her views are on U.S.-China relations, Haley called China the United States’ “No. 1 national security threat.”
“Let’s go back in history,” Haley said. “For too long Republican and Democratic presidents thought if they were nice to China, China would want to be like us. That’s narcissistic. China does not want to be like us, but they want to be like communist China. We have to change the way we treat them.”
The Sunday town hall marked the second time CNN has hosted a question and answer session with a GOP presidential candidate this election season. Former President Donald Trump was the first, appearing on the network on May 10 in what some viewers called a Trump infomercial and further exposed CNN CEO Chris Licht to criticism of the way he’s running the cable news network.