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PolitiFact FL: Haley didn't say she wants the U.S. to take in Gaza refugees, as DeSantis PAC claims

Palestinians flee from northern Gaza to the south after the Israeli army issued an unprecedented evacuation warning to a population of over 1 million people in northern Gaza and Gaza City to seek refuge in the south ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion, Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.
Hatem Moussa
Palestinians flee from northern Gaza to the south Oct. 13, 2023, after the Israeli army issued an evacuation warning ahead of a possible ground invasion

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his campaign have accused competitor Nikki Haley, his Republican presidential nomination competitor, of laying the welcome mat for Gaza refugees.

"Nikki Haley argues in support of bringing Gaza refugees to America," the pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down posted Oct. 16 on X.

The post showed a clip of Haley’s Oct. 15 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. We watched the interview and found that Haley, former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, did not call for bringing refugees from Gaza to the United States.

The entire Republican primary field has said the U.S. should support Israel in the war with Hamas. But after Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, attacked Israel on Oct. 7, DeSantis distanced his position from Haley’s.

DeSantis has said he does not want the U.S. to take refugees from Gaza. But we found no evidence that Haley does, either.

Political spats aside, whether the U.S. accepts refugees from Gaza is hypothetical so far. Palestinians in Gaza generally couldn’t leave the area as of mid-October because it was sealed off, and even if they could, the U.S. process for granting refugee status is difficult and can take years.

Haley did not call for the U.S. to take in refugees from Gaza on CNN

Haley’s full interview showed she does not view all people in Gaza as Hamas supporters, but she did not say whether any refugees should come to the U.S.

"Do you think the U.S., Israel, Egypt needs to be doing more to help these innocent Palestinian civilians get out of harm's way?" Tapper asked Haley.

"We should care about the Palestinian citizens, especially the innocent ones, because they didn't ask for this," Haley said during her response. "But where are the Arab countries? Where are they? Where is Qatar? Where is Lebanon? Where is Jordan? Where is Egypt? Do you know we give Egypt over a billion dollars a year? Why aren't they opening the gates? Why aren't they taking the Palestinians?

"You know why? Because they know they can't vet them, and they don't want Hamas in their neighborhood. So, why would Israel want them in their neighborhood? So, let's be honest with what's going on. The Arab countries aren't doing anything to help the Palestinians because they don't trust who is right, who is good, who is evil, and they don't want it in their country."

Tapper then asked Haley to listen to a clip of DeSantis on the campaign trail in Iowa, discussing residents of Gaza.

"If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic," DeSantis said. "None of them believe in Israel's right to exist."

Tapper then cited polling from earlier this year that found that half of Palestinians in Gaza wanted Hamas to stop calling for Israel's destruction and 70% wanted the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank to take over Gaza. Hamas, which the U.S. in 1997 designated a terrorist organization, won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006.

"So, I'm not really certain that Gov. DeSantis has a real read on the difference between Hamas and the people of Gaza," Tapper said to Haley. "What was your response when you heard what Gov. DeSantis said?"

"I dealt with this every day for two years," Haley said, referring to her tenure as U.N. ambassador in 2017 and 2018, during the Trump administration.

Haley said half of the Palestinians in Gaza didn’t want to be under Hamas rule.

"There are so many of these people who want to be free from this terrorist rule," she said. "They want to be free from all of that. And America's always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists. And that's what we have to do."

Never Back Down argues that Haley’s statements signal that Haley wants to allow Palestinians in Gaza into the U.S.

"Why would Haley emphasize America’s ability to ‘separate civilians from terrorists’ and say ‘That’s what we have to do’ if she was opposed to doing it?" Matt Wolking, a Never Back Down spokesperson told PolitiFact in a statement.

But that’s not what Haley said.

Haley later said she opposed taking refugees

PolitiFact’s process is to rate statements based on what was known when they’re made. But the DeSantis-Haley feud over this point continued for days after Never Back Down’s Oct. 16 post.

On Oct. 17, DeSantis told Fox News that Haley "was taking issue with what I said, saying that you can separate someone who's Hamas in Gaza with somebody who's more of a freedom lover. So, why would she be talking about that, ‘We can vet these people,’ if she wasn't saying that they should come to this country? We would have no role in vetting them unless you're bringing them to this country. And so, she changed her tune."

But also Oct. 17, Haley told Fox News that the people in Gaza should stay within the region.

"We don't know who they are," Haley said. "Why doesn't Egypt want them? For the same reason that we should not want them. It's because you can't vet them. You don't know, but also I found out refugees want to stay within their region. So, let the Gazans stay within the region."

Our ruling

The Never Back Down PAC wrote Oct. 16 on X, "Nikki Haley argues in support of bringing Gaza refugees to America."

The PAC’s post linked to a clip of Haley’s CNN interview in which she said many people in Gaza want to be free of terrorist rule. "America's always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists," Haley said. "And that's what we have to do."

Her comment about distinguishing civilians from terrorists is not akin to inviting refugees from Gaza to enter the U.S. And when Tapper asked her whether the U.S. and other countries should help the civilians, Haley said we should care about "the innocent Palestinian citizens." But she also asked why Arab countries were not taking in people from Gaza. The reason, she said, was that other countries "know they can't vet them, and they don't want Hamas in their neighborhood."

Haley did not say in the interview whether the U.S. should accept refugees from Gaza.

We rate this statement False.

Our Sources