Advertisement

Haley dismisses Trump's false suggestion she's not eligible to run for president

Donald Trump on Friday again referred to his GOP challenger Nikki Haley by a mangled version of her birth name, this time calling her "Nimbra."

"Nimbra doesn't have what it takes," Trump wrote on his social media platform after earlier this week referring to her as "Nikki 'Nimrada' Haley."

On Thursday night, Haley responded to Trump's recent attacks, including his reposting of a false claim that she is not eligible to run for president because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born.

During a CNN town hall, Trump's former U.N. ambassador responded to a question about Trump's name-calling.

"I know President Trump well. That's what he does when he feels threatened. That's what he does when he feels insecure," she told CNN's Jake Tapper.

MORE: How DeSantis and Haley see their potential paths to beating Trump

"It doesn't bother me. I know him very well. And this is what he does. I know that I am a threat. So, it's not going to waste any energy for me. I'm going to continue to focus on the things that people want to talk about. And not get into the name-calling back with him."

Haley was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa to Punjabi Sikh parents who were living in South Carolina after emigrating from India in the 1960s. She has said that early on she adopted her middle name as her first name and later took her husband's last name when they married.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley talks to a group of people while campaigning at the historic Robie Country Store, Jan. 18, 2024, in Hooksett, N.H. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley talks to a group of people while campaigning at the historic Robie Country Store, Jan. 18, 2024, in Hooksett, N.H. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

MORE: Nikki Haley's South Asian heritage is historic part of her presidential campaign

Asked by Tapper about Trump promoting the false claim that she is not eligible to be president because her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth, she responded, "Well, first, I am the proud daughter of Bamberg, South Carolina, so I love my sweet town and I'm proud to say I'm from there," she said. " … we can throw that out the window."

Trump famously promoted false so-called "birther" claims about Barack Obama being born in Kenya beginning around 2011 casting doubt on Obama's birthplace, fueling a raft of unfounded conspiracy theories about his birth certificate. In 2016, he eventually conceded that Obama was born in the U.S.

In 2020, Trump raised false "birther" citizenship claims about Kamala Harris -- similar in nature to the false claims about Haley. Harris' parents were immigrants.

While Haley has not raised the issues of her race, these claims -- as well as the ones against Obama and Harris -- have been criticized by some as an effort to appeal to those who are anti-immigrant and racist.

Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Indian American, has been critical of Trump's comments about Haley's eligibility.

"Trump knows what he's doing, and it's critical we push back on his birther lies and his legally wrong, fundamentally racist view of what it means to be an American," he posted to X.

Asked Friday if she felt Trump's attacks against her were "racist," Haley told a press gaggle in Amherst, New Hampshire, that it's for the voters to decide.

"I'll let people decide what he means by his attacks. What we know is, look, he's clearly insecure. If he goes and does these temper tantrums, if he's going and spending millions of dollars on TV, he's insecure -- he knows that something's wrong. I don't sit there and worry about whether it's personal or what he means by it," Haley said.

Trump did an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Thursday night as counterprogramming to Haley's town hall. In it, Trump took aim at both Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying they would not be able to handle the "onslaught" of attacks he claims to have faced from his political enemies.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump talks to supporters during a campaign rally at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, Jan. 17, 2024, in Portsmouth, N.H. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump talks to supporters during a campaign rally at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, Jan. 17, 2024, in Portsmouth, N.H. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

"[Nikki] would not be able to handle that position. She would not be able to handle the onslaught. With all of that being said, within the Republican Party, I want to bring unity and within the nation. I want to bring unity and you know, unity is going to come from success," Trump said.

The candidates are stepping up attacks on their rivals as the New Hampshire primaries draw near. The primaries, set for next Tuesday, Jan. 23, will be a major test for Haley and DeSantis, who both lost to Trump in the Iowa GOP caucuses.

ABC News' Lalee Ibsaa, Soorin Kim and Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

Haley dismisses Trump's false suggestion she's not eligible to run for president originally appeared on abcnews.go.com