Women and Politics

A blog from WCF about the state of women and politics

Nikki Haley victim of misogyny and racism in South Carolina

This post was submitted by WCF Communications Fellow Ali Rozell

For the past two months, Nikki Haley, a South Carolina State Legislator and a Republican candidate for Governor, has faced an unacceptable onslaught of misogynist rhetoric and racial slurs.

Two men have come forward stating they had affairs with Haley.

The first man with accusations is Will Folks, a conservative blogger, who alleges that he engaged in a lengthy affair with Haley.  When Haley announced her candidacy for governor, Folks, who plead guilty to a criminal domestic violence charge in 2005, posted a video of a mock-interview with Haley, in which he threatens her with physical violence.

Folks then posted an entry on his blog alleging that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley.  Following Folks’s post, the conservative blogosphere exploded with opinions on Haley’s supposed extramarital affairs.  Comments on these blogs quickly became sexist and derogatory, with writers calling Haley a “slut” and a “whore” multiple times.

RedState, a leading Republican blog, objectified Haley to a disgusting level when blogger Erick Ericson stated, in “defense” of Haley:

“This violates the very basic laws of nature: hot women do not have affairs with ugly guys unless those guys are rich.”

Ericson then went on to take it to a new low:

*Take home point for the moms in the audience: how likely is it that a hot woman would want to have an “inappropriate physical relationship” with this guy when, according to his timeline, she would have had very small children at the time and more likely than not wanted sleep above all other things?

If we were to rank the egregiousness of misogynistic comments, these would win first place.

Riding the wave of publicity that Folks gained after alleging an affair with Haley, Larry Merchant, a consultant for Haley’s opponent Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, went to the press with a story that he had a one night stand with Haley in 2008.  Merchant admitted he had no proof of the affair, yet the media again exploded with speculations on Haley’s sexual life.

It is as ridiculous as it is offensive that the media spent so much time commenting on and speculating about Haley’s sexual life—over a comment coming from a rival campaign.  Haley vehemently denied these claims, stating that she has been faithful to her husband throughout her marriage.

The firestorm surrounding Haley’s alleged sexual actions became so intense that instead of focusing on her political positions or efforts in the South Carolina Legislature, Haley began receiving questions about the purported affairs, derailing the election.

Instead of focusing on the issues important to voters, the election became focused on false and sexist allegations.

And just when you thought the ignorance couldn’t get any worse,  Jim Knotts, a State Senator in South Carolina, used a racist slur in reference to Haley:

“We’ve got a raghead in Washington, we don’t need a raghead in the Statehouse.”

Disgusting. Racism has no place anywhere in our country—let alone in politics.

Haley has been a public official in South Carolina for many years and has earned a strong reputation as an effective lawmaker. It’s appalling that her campaign was reduced to sexist and racial slurs.

The conflagration of accusations against Haley only served as evidence that women in politics face harsh forces when running for office.  Haley heads into a runoff against State Representative Gresham Barrett in two weeks. We will be watching her race closely to ensure the rest of her primary season is free from misogyny and racism.

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