During an event in Conway, South Carolina, Trump asked, “What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone. He knew. He knew.”
In response, Haley took to X and stated, “Michael is deployed serving our country, something you know nothing about.”
This is not the first time Trump has criticized opponents based on their military service, as he previously questioned the heroism of the late Sen. John McCain due to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Trump has been accused of disregarding the tradition of refraining from attacking servicemembers or their families throughout his political career. Michael Haley, who began his deployment with the South Carolina Army National Guard in June, is currently serving as a staff officer with the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, providing support in the Horn of Africa.
Following Trump’s comments, Michael Haley shared a meme on his X account, featuring a wolf and the text, “The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack.”
While Trump has avoided military service himself through deferments, his wife, former First Lady Melania Trump, has also been absent from the campaign trail and has not made any public appearances with him since his announcement speech.
Nikki Haley has been urging Trump to participate in a debate with her as she aims to alter the course of the race after his victories in the first three primary states. During a campaign stop on Saturday night, she challenged him directly, stating, “Donald, if you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back. Get on a debate stage and say it to my face.”
Haley’s surrogates also wasted no time addressing Saturday’s comments.
“When you start talking about a veteran serving overseas, I don’t care if you know them or not, that should make your heart sick,” said state Rep. Chris Wooten, who introduced Haley at an evening rally.