Politics & Government

SC Gov. Nikki Haley to Donald Trump: ‘Bless your heart’

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joins Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio during a campaign rally in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2016.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joins Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio during a campaign rally in Atlanta on Feb. 29, 2016. Getty Images

A day after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called him out for not releasing his tax returns, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump blasted her on Twitter for a 2012 video that shows her dismissing such calls for public tax statements as a “political ploy.”

On the eve of the critical Super Tuesday primaries, Haley took the lead at an Atlanta rally for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who had lost his voice on the campaign trail. She hammered the business mogul for his bankruptcies, for refusing to release his tax returns, and for not denouncing white supremacist groups backing his campaign.

“I’m an accountant; I’m telling you there’s no audit that precludes you from showing your tax return,” she said, adding to cheers from the crowd “Donald Trump, show us your tax return.”

It didn’t take long for Trump to hit back on Twitter.

“The people of South Carolina are embarrassed of Nikki Haley!” he tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, after deleting the first version that misspelled the governor’s last name as “Hailey.”

His campaign took it a step further, with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and social media director Dan Scavino tweeting a video of a 2012 interview in which Haley dismisses the importance of Republican candidate Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns.

“Those are distractions,” she tells a Daily Caller reporter in the video. “I saw it in my race, they always say ‘Show me your tax returns’ just so they can start throwing holes in it. I think that that will be [Romney’s] decision to make but that’s nothing but a political ploy.”

Haley had a very South Carolinian response for the New Yorker on Tuesday, simply tweeting at him directly: “Bless your heart.”

Trump’s pushback comes after Haley also condemned his Sunday interview on CNN’s "State of the Union", where he was repeatedly asked whether he would disavow the Ku Klux Klan and former grand wizard David Duke.

"I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper. "So I don’t know. I don’t know – did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."

At the Rubio rally in Atlanta, Haley spoke about her experience with similar groups when she backed the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse following the shooting of nine black congregants at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white supremacist.

I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we are.

Gov. Nikki Haley

“The KKK came to South Carolina from out of state to protest on our Statehouse grounds,” she said. “We saw and looked at true hate in the eyes last year in Charleston. I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we are.”

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

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