Nikki Haley was forced to clean up a bizarre gaffe Thursday after claiming during an interview that she would let Texas secede from the United States if elected president.
Following her comments Wednesday, she told Fox News that the question—and her answer—was merely a hypothetical that would never happen, despite the fact that tensions between Texas officials and President Joe Biden’s administration are as strained as ever.
Haley was criticized heavily for the comments she made Wednesday during a podcast interview with Charlamagne tha God, in which she said of Texas: “If that whole state says we don’t want to be part of America anymore, I mean, that’s their decision to make.”
The statement came in response to a question about whether Haley—if she wins the presidency—would use force against Texas if ever tried to leave the U.S.
On Thursday, however, Haley was adamant her opinion on the legality of secession is irrelevant until a state realistically shows interest in doing so.
“It’s not about secession,” she said. “Nobody’s going to do that. That’s not what people are talking about.”
That’s not entirely true, however, even if succession chatter has mostly been confined to the more far-right corners of the internet.
Texas has been in a standoff with the federal government for weeks after it began to to put up razor wire along the southern U.S. border near Eagle Pass, an area that has seen a record number of crossing by migrants in recent months.
The Biden Administration then contested the state’s authority to do so all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that federal agents could cut down the wire—though it crucially did not instruct Texas to stop putting up the wire in the first place.
Since the standoff became headline news, scores of states led by conservative governors have shared their public support for Texas. Some have even sent national guard troops to aid state authorities attempting to enforce border laws usually handled by federal agencies.
When pressed to speak more about her thoughts on secession by Fox News, Haley pivoted to bashing President Joe Biden and suggesting he was the reason secession hypotheticals were mentioned in the first place.
“What should be the issue with Texas is, look, they are dealing with a terrible illegal immigration crisis,” Haley said. “The federal government, Joe Biden, is not being there for them. We should let them do whatever they need to, to keep Texans safe and to keep Texas protected. That’s the goal. That’s what we want to do.”
Haley insisted that her comments on secession were related to an old comment she made in 2010, where she also said states have the right to leave the union if their residents wish to.
States have only seceded from the U.S. once, a tide which began with Haley’s native South Carolina at the onset of the Civil War. Despite that act of secession being one of the biggest stains on U.S. history, Haley is adamant that states should have the right to do as they please.
“I don’t think government needs to tell people how to live, how to do anything,” she said on Wednesday’s podcast. “I mean, I think that we need to let freedom live.”