2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley gave her first network interview to NBC’s Today co-host Craig Melvin for Thursday’s show and Melvin predictably made Donald Trump the focus, constantly pressing her on why she’d run against him, his role in January 6, his outlook on the 2020 election, his penchant for insults, and his views on foreign policy.
In other words, it was the first of many attempts by the liberal media to tar and feather any and all Republicans (except for maybe liberal media favorites like Liz Cheney or Larry Hogan) who’d challenge Trump so as to ensure the man who’s been a financial boon to the news business wins the nomination in a runaway.
The 12 minutes and nine seconds of coverage across Today and the 3rd Hour of Today began on the former with Melvin noting she said “less than a year ago...that if former President Trump was going to run, you wouldn’t run,” so between that and her reportedly calling him a great president, “why run against him?”
Haley countered that the party “need[s] to go in a new direction, but when I first said I wouldn’t run against him, Afghanistan hadn’t fallen, we didn’t see the rise in inflation...we didn’t see what was happening in our schools...and we didn’t see the results of the midterms”.
Melvin spent much of the first block on 2020 and January 6, starting by wondering how could she believe that Trump’s “need[ed]...in the Republican Party” while also saying he “will be judged harshly by history” because of the ugly events of January 6.
Haley stated the obvious that one could “[e]xcept for the media,” but Melvin wasn’t having it: “He can be responsible for the insurrection but still be an essential part of the party?”
Haley didn’t budge and reiterated “January 6 was a terrible day” and Trump “did real good in this country.” She then stated a concept some journalists seem to not understand with media criticism: “When I see something right, I praise it. When I see something wrong, I criticize it.”
Melvin continued to hammer away on Trump, citing an isolated Monmouth Poll that claims “61 percent of Republicans say that President Biden” was illegitimately elected and was thus proof “election denialism has become a pretty significant part of” the GOP (click “expand”):
MELVIN: As you know, the immediate past President still maintains that the election was rigged, that it was stolen. He’s not alone. There’s this recent Monmouth poll that found 61 percent of Republicans say that President Biden because of voter fraud. How do you navigate that?
HALEY: I don’t have to navigate anything. We saw a lot the things happen during COVID that wouldn’t normally happen that created mischief that shouldn’t have been there. Is Joe Biden the President? Yes. Joe Biden is the President. I — we shouldn’t question that. Do I think that everybody needs voter I.D. like what we did in South Carolina so we know everybody’s vote is valid, yes.
MELVIN: But you know, election denialism has become a pretty significant part of —
HALEY: There’s going to be a percentage of people who don’t think Joe Biden’s President.
MELVIN: But 61 percent?
HALEY: I don’t think it’s 61 percent.
MELVIN: That’s —
HALEY: I think you have 61 percent who were saying look, we need to have trust in our election, and we need it to be as transparent as possible.
Following an exchange on China and Taiwan, the focus shifted to Ukraine with Melvin pointing out Haley’s support for the country runs counter to some in the GOP.
Of course, Melvin made it about Trump, asking her at one point to “recognize there’s daylight between you and the other declared candidate on that front.” When Haley said she would have done things differently than Biden, Melvin pivoted back to Trump, which led Haley to zing: “[Y]ou guys are obsessed with me talking about him”.
Part one ended with Melvin noting a large field allowed Trump to win in 2016 and questioning whether she’s ready for Trump because “he’s been known to say some pretty dirty and nasty things”. On both, Haley said she wasn’t concerned.
The 3rd Hour of Today’s portion included Haley’s family and what they make of her campaign launch, what kind of mother she was to her two children, and planning her daughter’s wedding, but the rest included more on...Trump (click “expand”):
MELVIN: Your former boss said that you had a hard time making decisions, said that you “would never run against the President, he did a great job, was the best President in my lifetime,” his words, “told Nikki to follow her heart. She's polling at one percent. Not a bad start.” Your response to that?
HALEY: What I'll tell you is I think he was a good president. There was so much that he did that was good. What I'm talking about —
MELVIN: Well, then why not — why not support him this time?
HALEY: — because I think we need to have a new generation. For Republicans, we have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president. It means Republicans need to do something different.
MELVIN: Is it the message or is it the messengers?
HALEY: I think it's always both. It's always got to be someone who really does listen to the people, that has their pulse on the ground, of what real families are going through. But I also think it's how you communicate. I don't want just Republicans with me, I want everybody with me because I believe that everybody wants to be proud about America.
Melvin briefly touched on abortion: “The senior senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, has proposed a federal ban on abortion. Would you sign that?”
Haley replied there has to be “consensus on this,” which left Melvin utterly baffled. She also fact-checked him, noting Graham’s proposal is for 15 weeks and “not a full-out federal ban.”
Melvin wrapped the policy portion by playing the media-wide dishonest game of claiming the GOP wants to slash or ax Medicare and Social Security: “A decade ago, you supported significantly scaling back Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. Should those social safety nets be scaled back?”
Haley repeatedly tried to explain they should be “reform[ed]” to maintain financial solvency, but not “take anything from people who have” paid into the system.
Melvin accused her of “semantics,” but Haley held firm that keeping promises to seniors wouldn’t be “chang[ing]” or “phasing it out.”
NBC’s obsession with taking down the first of many new GOP presidential candidates was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Citi and L'Oreal Paris. Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcripts form February 16, click here (for Today) and here (for 3rd Hour of Today).