South Carolina Paper Whacks Gov. Nikki Haley Over 14-Year-Old Daughter's Gift-Shop Job

South Carolina’s largest newspaper has a new anti-Republican scoop: “Gov. Nikki Haley’s 14-year-old daughter is working in the State House gift shop, raising questions about nepotism that the governor’s office declines to answer.” The daughter, Rena Haley,  is working about 20 hours a week at $8 an hour.

The newspaper called The State (based in Columbia, the state capital) is holding an online poll asking "Is it proper or improper for a governor's child to have a state job?" Three-fourths of respondents said "improper." The paper marched over to the Democrats so they could denounce Haley’s lack of ethics:

The issue is not Haley’s daughter but the Republican governor’s judgment, said Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party.

“You don’t use your position to get your daughter a job. It’s not about the daughter. It’s about lack of judgment by the governor,” Harpootlian said. “The appearance of impropriety doesn’t seem to bother the governor.”

In South Carolina, with the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate and a governor who boasts of cutting state spending, the hiring of Haley’s daughter also raises questions of unfair favoritism.

“Even these minimum-wage jobs in this economy can be pretty tough to find,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Washington, D.C.,-based Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan think tank on government issues, including ethics. “While this is probably a small-potatoes case, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest and strikes me as a politically tone-deaf decision.”

Meredith McGehee spent 15 years at the liberal lobby Common Cause (and before that four years with liberal Congressman Lane Evans), so don't rely too heavily on the "nonpartisan" label. As for Harpootlian, his lack of judgment is shown by his description of proposed voter-ID requirements as "electoral genocide."

Gov. Haley responded to questions with anger: “Y’all are not allowed to talk about my children.” But the newspaper persisted. “The State newspaper ... should be ashamed for printing details of a 14 year old’s life and whereabouts, against the wishes of her parents,” Haley’s spokesman, Rob Godfrey, said in a statement to the newspaper July 17. “We have nothing more to say.” They did later put out the daughter’s hours and wages to a different newspaper, the Charleston Post and Courier.

The State executive editor Mark Lett told readers that “It is not our practice to cover the children of sitting governors.” That’s no longer true. “In this instance, the essential issue is whether it is appropriate for the daughter of the governor to be placed on the state payroll. The child was put in that position by adults in state government and in the Haley family. We have made no attempt to interview the daughter but have asked those adults for comment.”

Lett might also have said "This is only our practice when the Governor is a Republican with a shot at being a vice-presidential contender and it would get us noticed by our liberal colleagues in the national media."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis