Outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday night that “our political opponents are not evil,” a notable message of political unity at a time of searing political division.
The message, made during otherwise lighthearted remarks at a charity dinner, are particularly striking coming from a top Trump administration official and come at a time when questions over Haley’s future political aspirations are the subject of heavy speculation.
“In our toxic political life, I’ve heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil,” Haley said at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York. “In America, our political opponents are not evil.”
President Donald Trump has frequently labeled his political opponents in harsh terms. Last week, he said allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh were brought “by people who are evil.”
But Haley – who was a reliable defender of Trump’s foreign policy throughout her tenure at the United Nations – pointed to overseas atrocities as a measure of what is truly despicable.
“In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children, that is evil. In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death, that was evil,” she said.
“In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil,” Haley continued. “We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil, they’re just our opponents.”
Last week, Haley announced her resignation and said she will leave her post by the end of the year. The surprise departure fueled speculation about her political future as a moderate, widely known Republican with credibility among Trump’s base.
Although Haley has publicly said – in Trump’s presence – that she won’t run for president in 2020, it’s widely speculated in Washington that she has a presidential run in her future.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson contributed to this report.