South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley performed the Republican response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union on Jan. 12 (video below).
While she did not directly reference GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, she made pointed criticisms of “the angriest voices” within her party.
Elected as a Tea Party darling in 2011, Haley was in the national spotlight last year when she called for the Confederate flag to be taken down from her state’s capitol following the Charleston massacre committed by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory,” Haley said during the GOP's State of the Union response. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
Haley’s sentiment was in stark contrast to Trump’s calls to deport every undocumented immigrant en masse and to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me everyday how blessed we were to live in this country,” Haley continued.
“Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America … at the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders," she added.
Several Republican pundits took Haley’s comments on immigration as a rebuttal not just to Obama’s address but to Trump.
“One could read it that way,” Republican Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina told The Washington Post. “Generically, broad brush — yeah, we’d all agree with that.”
Trump supporters were quick to denounce Haley’s speech, with conservative pundit Laura Ingraham tweeting that the move was “NOT SMART,” according to NPR.
In a reference to the governor’s Indian heritage, political commentator Ann Coulter took to social media to tweet, “Trump should deport Nikki Haley.”
The business mogul himself was quick to fire back at Haley, telling Fox & Friends Jan. 13 that “she's weak on illegal immigration, and she certainly has no trouble asking me for campaign contributions," NPR notes.
Haley has dismissed these criticisms, saying that her speech was “not personal.”
"I wasn't trying to please everyone,” Haley told CBS on Jan. 13. “I was given an opportunity to say what I think about the status of the country and I was honored to do so.
“I was also critical about our own Republicans and that's because we can't assume that we have no blame here … I think it's important to realize it takes two hands to clap -- stop the pointing, stop the blame game.”