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Nikki Haley

(1972 - )

Nikki Haley

Republican South Carolina Governor Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, better known as Nikki Haley, was born on January 20, 1972, in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She attended local schools and graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Haley went on to work for her mother’s upscale clothing business, Exotica International, helping to make it a multimillion-dollar company.

In 1998, Haley was named to the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors and, in 2003, to that of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. She became president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in 2004 and became involved in several other organizations, including the Lexington Medical Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, and the South Carolina Chapter of NAWBO.

Haley converted to Christianity and sits on the board of the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church. Out of respect for her parents’ culture, she still attends Sikh services.

Political Career

Haley ran for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004 and faced a challenge in the primary from incumbent Republican Larry Koon, the longest-serving member of the House at that time. She won the primary and then the general election, in which she ran unopposed and became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina. She ran unopposed for re-election in 2006 and defeated her Democrat challenger in 2008.

As a Republican, Haley’s platform was anti-tax and fiscally conservative. She voted for bills that restrict abortion and those that protect fetuses. As the child of legal immigrants, Haley has expressed support for greater enforcement of immigration laws.

Haley, a member of the Tea Party movement, announced in May 2009 that she would run for governor of South Carolina in 2010. She was elected on November 2, 2010.

The Republican Party selected Haley to deliver the GOP response following President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, significantly raising her national profile.

Following her response, press outlets reported that Haley was on the GOP shortlist as a possible vice presidential running mate for the party’s nominee, Donald Trump, who ultimately chose Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. During the presidential campaign, Haley initially campaigned for Marco Rubio and then endorsed Ted Cruz. Haley criticized Trump for not immediately disavowing the Ku Klux Klan’s support of him and for his proposed Muslim ban. Trump responded to Haley's criticism with his own critiques of her, including calling her “weak on immigration” and tweeting in March 2016: “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”

By the end of the contentious campaign, Haley backed Trump and celebrated his victory. “I have never known what it’s like to have a Republican president,” she said at a gathering of Republican leaders after the election. “I can tell you that the last five years, Washington has been the hardest part of my job. This is a new day.”

On November 22, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump picked Haley to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She was the first woman to be named to his administration. “Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement. “She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

In accepting the offer, Haley said that she was “honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love.” She added, “When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation's standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed.”

On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed as UN Ambassador by the Senate, 94-6, and she resigned as governor of South Carolina to serve in her new role.

Over her first few months as the U.N. Ambassador, Haley found her time consumed by keeping the international community attuned to threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran. In December 2017, she forcefully defended President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, referring to it as the “will of the American people” and something that would “fastball the peace process going forward.” Haley has also vociferously condemned anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.

Haley also made human rights a priority. During her tenure as the Security Council President in April 2017, Haley hosted the council’s first-ever session solely devoted to the discussion of human rights.

Haley left her position as U.N. ambassador on December 31, 2018.

In 2019, Haley created a new policy group called Stand for America, a group that promotes public policies aimed at strengthening the economy, culture, and national security issues. The same year she was elected to the board of directors of Boeing.

In early 2021, Haley created a PAC to endorse and support candidates in the 2022 midterm elections.

On February 14, 2023, she announced she was running for president in 2024.

In September 1996, Nikki Randhawa married Michael Haley. The couple have two children.

She has written four books:

  • Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story, (New York: Sentinel, 2012).
  • With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019).
  • A Better Blueprint for International Organizations: Advancing American Interests on the Global Stage, (DC: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 2021)
  • If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2022).

Haley has also won numerous award, including several for her support of Israel:

  • Defender of Israel, Christians United for Israel, (July 23, 2018).
  • Excellence in Diplomacy Award, B’nai B’rith International, (2018).
  • Friend of Israel Humanitarian Award, Miami Jewish Federation, (2019).
  • Humanitarian Laureate Award, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, (May 24, 2019).
  • Theodor Herzl Award, World Jewish Congress, (November 6, 2019).

Policy Positions

U.S. - Israel Relationship

  • After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called Israel an “apartheid” state, Haley said, “Why does Israel get under your skin? Because it’s democratic, pro-American, or Jewish? You don't get worked up about massive human rights violations in China, Iran, Cuba, & Venezuela.” 

    “You all would fit in great with the anti-Semites at the United Nations.” (@NikkiHaley, July 20, 2023)

  • “Nikki has long been a strong defender of Israel. As governor, she signed the first anti-BDS legislation in the country. As UN ambassador, she declared “a new day for Israel at the United Nations” and vowed that “the days of Israel bashing are over.” Nikki urged President Trump to move America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem even when other members of the administration opposed the move. And when President Trump made the official announcement, she proudly issued the first American veto in six years at the UN Security Council, defending the United States’ sovereign right to put our embassy wherever we choose. Nikki changed the conversation at the UN Security Council’s monthly session on the Middle East from constantly bashing Israel to highlighting real human rights crises in tyrannical countries in the Middle East. Despite opposition from the D.C. establishment, Nikki pushed for America’s withdrawal from the anti-Israel UNESCO and withdrawal of funding from the corrupt UNRWA. She was also a driving force behind the United States’ withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council—an entity she called “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.” (Nikki Haley for President).

Foreign Aid

  • “He [Ramaswamy] to hand Ukraine to Russiahe wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel. You don’t do that to your friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends.”

    “It’s not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel.” (First Republican Debate, Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023)

  • Responding to his comments on Israel and foreign aid, Haley said: “Vivek Ramaswamy is completely wrong to call for ending America’s special bond with Israel. Support for Israel is both the morally right and strategically smart thing to do. Both countries are stronger and safer because of our iron-clad friendship. As president, I will never abandon Israel.” (Jewish Insider, August 21, 2023)


  • [Israel has been] “the front line of defense against Iran.” (First Republican Debate, Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023)
  • “Known as the ‘Iran whisperer,’ Nikki played a prominent role in President Trump’s decision to repeal President Obama’s disastrous Iran deal. While others in the administration wanted to keep the Iran deal in place, Nikki made a compelling case for leaving it. She argued that the United States could not ignore all of the regime’s bad behavior, including its continued development of ballistic missiles, its terrorist activities throughout the Middle East, and its refusal to give access to international inspectors. She argued that the Iran nuclear deal made America less safe and praised President Trump’s decertification of it in October 2017.” (Nikki Haley for President).


  • “We must do much more to show Hamas that we will never tolerate terrorism. We must show that when Hamas uses homes and schools to hide its terrorist infrastructure, there will be consequences. Those who give Hamas the arms, money, and political support to operate must cease. And if they do not, Member States of this United Nations need to come together to put real pressure on supporters of Hamas to stop. Together, we can show Hamas that their terrorist tactics will only lead to more isolation. Together, we can show Hamas that their terrorist tactics will fail. So we should act now, before Hamas puts the people of Gaza at risk again by building more tunnels under their feet.” (Speech at the UN, June 20, 2017)

AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office.

Sources: Editors, Nicki Haley Biography, (April 4, 2018).
United States Mission to the United Nations.
Nicki Haley, Wikipedia.
“US Amb. Haley’s Remarks at the UN on the Situation in the Middle East,” The United States Mission to the United Nations, (June 20, 2017).
@NikkiHaley, (July 20, 2023).
Nikki Haley for President.
Marc Rod, “Haley hits Ramaswamy over call to curtail aid to Israel,” Jewish Insider, (August 21, 2023).
Andrew Lapin, “Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy spar over aid to Israel at first GOP debate,” JTA, (August 23, 2023).
“Daily Kickoff,” Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023).

Photo: United States Department of State, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.