Haley attacks Trump for mocking husband's military service, RFK Jr. ad angers family

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By Tim Reid and Jarrett Renshaw

(Reuters) -Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley had one word on Monday for rival Donald Trump's personal comments about her husband's military deployment: "Disgusting."

Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, brought up Major Michael Haley, who has been serving in Africa with the Army National Guard since June, during a campaign speech in South Carolina on Saturday.

"Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband?" Trump asked a crowd, insinuating he had deployed to avoid being part of his wife's campaign.

Haley responded on Monday with a new digital ad that lambastes Trump - who received medical deferments and did not serve in the Vietnam War - for his long record of disparaging military service members and their families.

The ad revisits comments made by Trump's former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who said that Trump while president did not want to visit a cemetery in Paris for fallen World War One veterans because it was filled with "suckers" and "losers."

Haley's ad also reminds viewers of Trump's 2015 comments that former Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, who spent over five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam after being shot down while a U.S. Navy pilot, was not a war hero.

"I like people who weren't captured," Trump said of McCain.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking on Fox News on Monday, Haley said of Trump's latest remarks: "It's disgusting."

"You mock one veteran, you're mocking all veterans," she added.

The issue could be a powerful one for Haley in her home state of South Carolina, where she trails Trump in polls ahead of its Republican primary on Feb. 24. The state has a large number of active U.S. military personnel, retired veterans and military bases.

In other news from the U.S. presidential campaign trail:


Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running for president as an independent candidate, apologized to members of his family for a surprise Super Bowl ad that heavily featured his connection to his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy.

“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain. The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you,” Kennedy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. The FEC is the Federal Election Commission.

American Values 2024 ran a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl on Sunday that heavily relied on imagery from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.

Kennedy's cousin, Bobby Shriver, criticized the ad in a post Sunday on X.

“My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces - and my Mother’s. She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA,” Shriver wrote.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist, launched his campaign for the White House last year as a Democrat but switched to an independent bid in the fall. His siblings criticized the presidential run, saying he shares the same name as their father, but not the values.

Kennedy trails in a hypothetical three-way race with President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and his likely Republican rival, former president Trump, according to a December Reuters/Ipsos poll. The same poll showed Kennedy drawing more support from potential Biden voters than from Trump's.

(Reporting by Tim Reid and Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Paul Grant; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci)