Nikki Haley Book: South Carolina Governor Talks Dirty Politics, Tea Party In ‘Can’t Is Not An Option’

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By Cristina Merrill | April 13, 2012 5:49 AM EST

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley released her memoir "Can't Is Not an Option: My American Story" on April 3.

In her book, published by Penguin Group imprint Sentinel, the Bamberg, S.C., native wrote about her early life in the state as an Indian-American, allegations of extramarital affairs, her predecessor Mark Sanford's scandal and winning the endorsement of Sarah Palin, among other topics.

Haley recently made the news thanks to a false allegation made on a South Carolina blog, the Palmetto Public Record, which claimed that the 40-year-old governor was being indicted for tax fraud. The report was widely circulated in the media before Haley publicly contradicted it; her office eventually released a letter from the Internal Revenue Service denying an investigation.

This wasn't the first time she had to deal with sketchy allegations made in the blogosphere, though. She hinted as much in a statement she posted last month on Twitter and Facebook after the tax fraud allegation surfaced: "Sorry fellas. I'm not going anywhere no matter how many lies you put on a blog. The days of dirty blogger politics will come to an end when people stop paying these guys to spread trash."

Here are a five points from Haley's book.

No hard feelings

Haley wrote of competing in a beauty pageant with her sister when they were girls. The pageant organizers traditionally picked one white girl and one black girl as winners each year, but Haley and her sister, the daughters of Indian parents, were singled out before the winners were announced and told "We don't have a place for you" by organizers, who gave them each a gift. Haley said she was given a beach ball.

Despite the disappointment, Haley expresses no ill will in her book: "Yes, I was disqualified from the pageant, but the same town that disqualified me was the one that accepted me into a Girl Scout troop, helped my dad get a job in a community college, and helped my mom get a job as a sixth-grade social studies teacher. Over time that town, Bamberg, adopted us as its own."

She adds that the town "supported and comforted" her family when her brother fought in the Persian Gulf War. "That was the story I wanted to tell the press," she writes, adding that the town "showed us that it too could change, and that says more about South Carolina and about America than an awkward day at a kids' pageant."

Infidelity rumor

The governor wrote about the scandal that arose during her 2010 governor campaign thanks to rumors of an alleged affair. Blogger Will Folks, a former spokesman for disgraced then-Gov. Mark Sanford, had written the following on his blog in May of that year: "Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki. That's it. I will not be discussing the details of that relationship, nor will I be granting any additional interviews about it to members of the media beyond what I have already been compelled to confirm."

Haley, who has always denied having an affair with Folks, describes the allegation in her book as "a transparent political attempt to bring down a surging campaign." She writes the following: "The blogger in question was a sad figure who had been Governor Sanford's spokesman until he was fired. He had pled guilty to criminal domestic violence involving his girlfriend. Against my better judgment -- and against the advice of almost everyone I asked -- Michael and I had hired him to do some consulting work for me while I worked in the statehouse. We believe everyone deserves a second chance." She adds the following: "All I kept thinking was, How much would he have had to be paid to do this?"

Federal government

Haley considers the federal government a hindrance during her governorship, especially on health care and illegal immigration. Haley, who emphasizes in her book that her parents legally immigrated to the U.S., supports enforcing immigration laws and opposes President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, although she acknowledges in her book that his plan "has sparked a conversation about health care that is badly needed."

She writes: "Hands down, the biggest surprise I have had as governor is how much the federal government won't let me do my job. From health care to illegal immigration to job-killing regulations, we have a president and a Washington, D.C., crowd that think they know better than we do. Not only that, but they think there's a one-size-fits-all answer to all our problems, as if South Carolina were the same as California or Michigan."

The Sarah Palin endorsement

Haley and her campaign team were excited to get an endorsement from Sarah Palin during the 2010 campaign. "Governor Palin's endorsement was something that we had been hoping for for a full year, but I had never allowed myself to think about too much because I knew she marched to the beat of her own drum," Haley wrote. "She did things in her own way and on her own time, and now that she had come through for me, I could barely believe it."

The Tea Party

Haley writes favorably of the Tea Party movement: "It's funny. Despite all the success the Tea Party has had in changing the subject in Washington from 'How do we spend more of the taxpayers' money?' to 'How do we stop digging ourselves into a bottomless pit of debt?' the press continues to ask me if the Tea Party is dying. Wishful thinking, I guess. My response is always 'Are you kidding me? We're just getting started!' I love the Tea Party. They're the reason people are getting energized about their government and elected officials all across the country are getting scared. It's a beautiful thing!"

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