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Burgum downplays Trump attacks on Haley's name and conspiracy about her heritage

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who endorsed Donald Trump after suspending his own Republican presidential campaign, on Sunday tried to downplay the former president's inflammatory new attacks on former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's name and heritage.

When pressed by ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Trump's intentional mispronunciations of Haley's first name -- Nimarata -- and elevation of a false conspiracy theory that she is unable to be president because her Indian immigrant parents weren't citizens when she was born in South Carolina, Burgum initially did not give a direct answer.

But Raddatz followed up: "Please answer the question, sir. Answer the question about why you think Donald Trump is doing that."

Trump has repeatedly misstated or mispronounced Haley's first name, more often in social media posts. She goes by her middle name and took her husband's last name after they married.

Trump has a history of racist attacks on some non-white opponents -- including infamously questioning whether Barack Obama was born in the U.S. (he was) and singling out Obama's middle name, Hussein.

Burgum on "This Week" chalked the comments up to more routine sharp exchanges in a campaign, pointing to how President Joe Biden has gone after Trump rather than, he argued, focusing more on key issues like crime, immigration and inflation.

"I think it's politics," Burgum said, adding, "That's politics around the world, and it's politics in America."

"So, do you think that's the kind of politics that Donald Trump is using, going after Nikki Haley's heritage, that will bring the country together?" Raddatz asked.

"You could ask me the question about, you know, what did Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris say? The vicious things they said about Joe Biden, even during debates nationally televised within that party," Burgum said, referencing some of Biden's 2020 primary opponents. "This is all in the norm for politics in our country. But once we agree as parties, we get behind candidates. The Democrats got behind Biden in 2020. I'm confident Republicans are gonna get behind President Trump."

Haley has also responded to Trump's attacks.

"I know President Trump well. That's what he does when he feels threatened. That's what he does when he feels insecure," she said during a CNN town hall on Thursday.

PHOTO: In this Nov. 4, 2023, file photo, Republican presidential candidate North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks during the Florida Freedom Summit  in Kissimmee, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: In this Nov. 4, 2023, file photo, Republican presidential candidate North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks during the Florida Freedom Summit in Kissimmee, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Burgum, who suspended his campaign in December after failing to gain traction, endorsed Trump earlier this month, one day before the Iowa caucuses that began the 2024 race.

On "This Week," Burgum was asked about several areas in which he seemingly diverges from Trump, including a self-declared mission to pull the country together -- while Trump has vowed "retribution" -- and reaffirming that Biden won the 2020 race.

Burgum said he was endorsing Trump because he was "confident that President Trump is going to be right on the economy, right on energy policy and right on national security."

"During the time that President Trump was in office, I mean, we had peace and prosperity in America. And under President Biden, we’ve got chaos around the world," he said.

When Raddatz pressed Burgum over Trump's repeated and unfounded claims that the 2020 election was "stolen," a stance Burgum has opposed in the past, including an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Burgum initially pivoted to past instances of other candidates raising questions about the election process.

He then cited "irregularities" regarding 2020, though there has never been any evidence of widespread fraud.

"Do you think the election was stolen now, sir?" Raddatz followed up.

"No, I'm not saying that," Burgum responded.

"I'm saying that I think that we have to ... make sure that Americans have confidence in these elections," he said.

Burgum also swatted away a recent gaffe by Trump in which he repeatedly confused Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi while discussing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump and other Republicans have made repeated attacks on Biden's age and fitness, which many voters also feel is poor, polls show -- as Biden says his work speaks for itself.

Haley seized on Trump's slip in a recent campaign appearance, suggesting he, too, might not be mentally strong enough.

"I've been on the campaign trail, and I know when you're going around the clock, it's possible to ... use words that don't fit in sentences," Burgum told Raddatz. "But I would say having been with the president last week in Iowa and in New Hampshire and watching him go for 20 hours a day, I know that he's got the strength, he's got the experience to lead."any

Burgum downplays Trump attacks on Haley's name and conspiracy about her heritage originally appeared on abcnews.go.com