Nikki Haley caught in Trump’s crosshairs

Washington: Nikki Haley’s call to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to tamp down on his anti-immigrant rhetoric won praise from Republicans and Democrats alike, but the real estate mogul was not amused. Supporters of Trump were angered that Haley called him out and many took to Twitter and mocked her Indian heritage, making fun of her Indian given name.

Donald Trump “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” South Carolina’s Indian-American governor said in the Republican Party’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume,” she said without naming Trump, who has rattled the Republican establishment with his rhetoric particularly his call to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the US. Haley acknowledged on Wednesday morning that she was referring to Trump when she warned Americans not to follow the angriest voices in politics.

“Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk,” the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India told NBC. The remarks drew praise from many Republicans and Democrats and even the White House for “willing to do something that a lot of other leading Republicans have been unwilling to do, which is to actually articulate a commitment to some core American values.”

“Look, that doesn’t mean that we agree with Governor Haley on everything; we surely don’t,” Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “But her willingness to stand up for some important principles was noted, and it took courage. And for that, she deserves credit,” he said.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough also expressed approval for Haley. “I have a lot of admiration for the governor,” McDonough said Wednesday describing parts of her speech as “admirable.” Haley’s speech also renewed speculation that she would be a strong pick as a vice-presidential candidate.

Haley told NBC that she hadn’t thought about any of the vice-presidential rumours, but added: “If a candidate wanted to sit down and talk, I would sit down and talk. That’s a big decision.” Later she told CNN that she considered Trump a friend and urged the billionaire not to take her comments personally and said that she also had concerns about some of his rivals.

But Trump would have none of it. “She’s very weak on illegal immigration,” Trump told Fox News making it clear that Haley was unlikely to be his running mate for the Nov 8 presidential election. “Well, considering I’m leading in the polls by a lot, I wouldn’t say she’s off to a good start” to be his vice presidential candidate, Trump said. “Whoever I pick is also going to be very strong on illegal immigration.”

He also suggested that Haley was a hypocrite saying “Over the years, she’s asked me for a hell of a lot of money in campaign contributions.”

The reviews were more mixed among other Republican presidential candidates. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush described her speech as “remarkable” for talking about a “broader hopeful, optimistic Republican message.” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also said he was “impressed” with Haley.

But former HP chief executive Carly Fiorina argued that Americans have a right to be angry about issues such as illegal immigration.

Ann Coulter, the conservative commentator, said that Trump should deport Haley even though she was born in the US.