DeSantis PAC snips and clips its way to falsehood in attacking Haley

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said she thought “life would be more civil” if people were prohibited from posting anonymously, but that anonymous accounts would still be allowed for American citizens. MUST CREDIT: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

“We know her as ‘crooked Hillary.’ But to Nikki Haley, she’s her role model – the reason she ran for office.”

– voice-over from an attack ad aired by Fight Right, Inc., a new super PAC supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), aired Nov. 21

With former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley rising in the polls to emerge as a (distant) second-place finisher in the Republican primaries behind former president Donald Trump, allies of DeSantis have begun to attack her as a Hillary Clinton-loving liberal.

This ad – with the tagline “Nikki’s not who she says” – is the first of what the group promises will be an effort “to shed light on the failed records and leadership of Governor DeSantis’s opponents.” The ad ends by urging viewers to visit, a website paid for by the DeSantis campaign and claiming that Haley is “supportive of every liberal cause under the sun.”

That’s a stretch. When Haley was elected governor in 2011, she was perceived as a darling of the tea party, the conservative activists who paved the way for Trump to take over the GOP. She was also U.N. ambassador under Trump.

This ad is yet another example of how attack ads are crafted to present a misleading narrative. Haley has made no secret of the fact that an appearance by Clinton at a women’s professional event in Greenville, S.C., – at a time when, by her account, many people were giving Haley reasons not to seek public office – was a galvanizing event that gave her the confidence to enter politics.

“The reason I actually ran for office is because of Hillary Clinton,” Haley told the New York Times in 2011. “Everybody was telling me why I shouldn’t run: I was too young, I had small children, I should start at the school board level. . . . Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker on a leadership institute, and she said that when it comes to women running for office, there will be everybody that tells you why you shouldn’t but that’s all the reasons why we need you to do it, and I walked out of there thinking ‘That’s it. I’m running for office.'”

Haley is referring to a 2003 conference on women in politics held at Furman University in Greenville. More than 2,000 people attended the then-senator’s speech, the Greenville News reported in an article on Clinton’s remarks that was headlined “Women urged to embrace politics.”

It’s a story Haley has told many times, including in two books, and so there are plenty of clips for Fight Right to chose from. The problem the ad makers faced is that Haley often quickly notes that she is ideologically opposed to Clinton and could not imagine voting for her.

“I couldn’t get past so many of her problems and policies that I thought were bad for the country,” Haley wrote in her 2019 memoir, “With All Due Respect.” “As I had made clear in the primaries, I had reservations about Donald Trump, but I had more about Hillary Clinton. I didn’t feel bad at all voting against someone who would have been the first female president.”

So Fight Right decided to clip out anything that might suggest Haley was not a Hillary fan. Often the snips are made in a deceiving way, making it difficult for a casual viewer to realize many words have been removed. We detail those snips below and also in the video above.

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The Facts

After the introductory language about Clinton being a role model for Haley, the ad runs a series of clips.

“I often say the reason I got into politics was because of Hillary Clinton.”

This is clipped from a July 2020 webcast of American University’s Women on Wednesdays. Here’s the full quote, with the sections used in the clip shown in bold:

“You know, I often say thatthe reason I got into politics, believe it or not, I don’t agree with anything that she has to say, but it was because of Hillary Clinton.” (Haley then goes on to retell the story mentioned above.)

In other words, Fight Right deleted her comment that she doesn’t agree with anything that Clinton says.

“She said that’s the reason you absolutely have to. And I walked out there and said I’m running for office.”

This clip, from a 2012 NBC “Meet the Press” interview, suggests that Clinton herself told Haley she needed to run for public office. In bold text in the ad, the words “you absolutely have to” are superimposed over Haley’s face.

Here’s the full sentence. The ad cuts out the part in which Haley says Clinton said this to hundreds of people.

“She said to a few hundred people there are going to be tons of reasons why people tell you you can’t do something, and she said that’s the reason you absolutely have to. And I walked out there and said I’m running for office.”

The ad then twists a comment made by “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory.

In the ad, Gregory appears to say this: “You write about her being a big inspiration in terms of a leader.”

But that melds together two comments that were separated by more than a minute of commentary by Haley. The net effect is to again eliminate any reference to ideological differences and to suggest Haley viewed Clinton as a leader.

“And I have to ask you about the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, because you write about her being a big inspiration for you. Talk about that,” Gregory said. After Haley retold her story, Gregory remarked: “So she was an inspiration, maybe not ideologically, but certainly in terms of a leader.”

Haley does not agree but instead responds: “A strong woman who understood people are quick to say you can’t.”

Finally the ad ends with this quote, accompanied by a throaty belly laugh by Clinton: “Hillary Clinton is actually the reason I made the jump.”

This line was taken from an interview with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) during a 2019 book tour, in a section of the interview in which she explained how she came to realize she was a Republican.

Once again the ad makers snip out the caveat that she does not agree with Clinton’s ideology: “So Hillary Clinton is actually the reason, I may not agree with her on a lot of things, but she is actually the reason that I made the jump.”

Olivia Perez-Cubas, a Haley campaign spokeswoman, supplied a number of clips of Haley being directly critical of Clinton during the 2016 campaign, such as “I don’t have a single policy that I think I agree with Hillary Clinton on.” (Haley went on to say that “I respect the fact that she’s put herself out there.”)

Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for Fight Right, responded to our queries about the misleading clips by emailing the New York Times interview and the link to the DeSantis website attacking Haley.

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The Pinocchio Test

This ad is one of those reasons many people dislike politics. The ad takes a sweet story that Haley had told often – that Clinton encouraged her to run for office by telling an audience that women need to ignore the naysayers – and twists it so that it sounds like she is a liberal Hillary worshiper. Some viewers might even get the impression Haley is talking about multiple encounters with Clinton, rather than attending a single lecture two decades ago.

In reality, when Haley tells this story, she always notes that she is Clinton’s ideological opposite. Those caveats are airbrushed out of this ad. The ad also gives the false impression that Haley spoke directly to Clinton about running. On top of that, even a television interviewer has his words clipped – and Haley’s response is left on the cutting room floor.

All told, in just 30 seconds, all four quotes in the ad are snipped in misleading ways. That may be a record. Ordinarily, we might judge this a Three Pinocchio ad – after all, it is correct that Haley was inspired to run for office because of something Clinton said – but the level of misleading clips is so over the top that Fight Right – or should we say Fight Wrong? – earns Four Pinocchios.



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