Nikki Haley addresses backlash over Iowa comment

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(NEW YORK) — Nikki Haley on Thursday night said she was trying to have some fun and was joking when she commented to a New Hampshire crowd the evening before that they would have an opportunity to “correct” the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Haley was speaking at CNN’s Town Hall in Iowa Thursday night, answering questions from voters, when toward the end of the evening, host Erin Burnett gave the former U.N. ambassador the floor.

“Look, we have done 150+ town halls. You gotta have some fun, too,” Haley told Thursday’s Iowa crowd, addressing her comments. “So, we’re at this town hall, we had 700 people in New Hampshire, we’re cutting up and yes, I said that.”

Haley explained that in her home state of South Carolina, where she previously served as governor, people knew Iowa was the first to caucus. Then, “New Hampshire’s going to be the first in the nation,” she continued. “And South Carolina wanted to be first in the South” in the selection of presidential candidates.

Haley said the three states “banter against each other on different things.”

“New Hampshire makes fun of Iowa; Iowa makes fun of South Carolina; it’s what we do,” she told the audience, adding that she believes politics of late are “too serious and too dramatic.”

On Wednesday night, Haley told a gathering in New Hampshire: “We have an opportunity to get this right. And I know we’ll get it right, and I trust you. I trust every single one of you. You know how to do this. You know, Iowa starts it. You know that you correct it. … And then my sweet state of South Carolina brings it home. That’s what we do.”

As she continued to address Thursday’s CNN Town Hall crowd, the GOP presidential hopeful said the comments were lighthearted.

“I don’t live, eat and breathe politics all the time. I like to have fun too, and so if I’m hanging out with 700 people and we’re trying to make jokes and have a good time, like you should be able to do that,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rival in the race to become the GOP presidential nominee, called Haley’s words “disrespectful” and said she made them “to provide an excuse for her not doing well” in Iowa.

CNN’s Burnett brought up the theme of DeSantis’ comments, asking Haley if her Iowa voter quip “didn’t reflect a lack of confidence in how you thought you would do here?”

“I would not sit here in the cold — ’cause it’s cold here — I have been coming here for months, going to every part of Iowa, shaking every hand, answering every question, being the last person to leave at every one of these town halls,” Haley replied. “You are gonna see me fight until the very end on the last day in Iowa, and I’m not playing in one state; I’m fighting in every state because I think everybody’s worth fighting for.”

She added that if she “didn’t love Iowa,” she “wouldn’t keep coming.”

Haley added that she would “probably going to say something funny in Iowa tomorrow about South Carolina or New Hampshire. It’s a way to just kind of not make everything so serious.”

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