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By George! Nikki Haley’s ‘Historical Illiteracy’ Called Out by Historians on Twitter

By George! Nikki Haley’s ‘Historical Illiteracy’ Called Out by Historians on Twitter

  • The former South Carolina governor commemorates President’s Day by claiming that George Washington presided over drawing up the Constitution during his presidency.

The sometime Trump supporter, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and the 116th Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley is once again making headlines, and not for the reasons she would like.                                       

Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa Haley, who has been talked about as a possible future Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination, faced heat from historians on Twitter after she claimed that George Washington presided over drawing up the Constitution during his presidency.                          

“George Washington turned an army of ragtag troops into an unstoppable force that defeated the British & secured America’s independence,” Haley tweeted on Monday in celebration of Presidents Day and to pay tribute to America’s first president.

“As President, he oversaw the creation of our Constitution & showed the world what it looks like to govern by the people and for the people,” the former South Carolina governor said.

But that’s not what actually happened.

Manisha Sinha, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a leading authority on the history of slavery and abolition and the Civil War and Reconstruction, pointed out the former Governor’s egregious error. 

“Historian here, the Constitution created the presidency and not vice versa. But maybe the Continental Army flown into airports managed to reverse time?” wrote Sinha.

The tongue-in-cheek comment referred to a similar historical error by former President Donald Trump who had remarked about troops during the Revolutionary War taking over airports. As most elementary students will tell you, there were no airplanes or airports in the late 18th century.

Manisha Sinha, the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut and a leading authority on the history of slavery.

Speaking to American Kahani, Sinha says, “It was bad that that tweet riddled with political errors should have come from somebody who is so prominent politically. It speaks to the historical illiteracy in general in the United States and especially by prominent leaders like Nikki Haley.”

However, Sinha does believe that Haley probably meant it as an innocuous tweet, “it’s not even clear if she wrote it or her staff, but I still think it was unfortunate that she made such a big error that she became a laughing stock amongst historians on Twitter.”

Sinha is also of the opinion that Haley is trying to get away from the complicity with the Trump regime, while at the same time not completely denouncing what he did, using the Tweet to deflect attention from the political. “I think she’s in a strange place politically, where on one hand, she tries to portray an image of moderation but on the other, seems to completely tie into the Republican Party, which has become a dangerous, anti-Democratic party.”

Whatever the motivation for the tweet – error or deliberate political move – Sinha believes the tweet “did not reflect well on Haley or her staff.”

Similarly, like-minded historians were quick to point out to Haley that the U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1787 and Washington became the nation’s first president in 1789.

History professors, highlighting the inaccuracies in Haley’s post, took to Twitter, joking about the number of errors she’d made.

Dr. Joanne Freeman, a history professor at Yale, tweeted, “The Continental army was FAR from an ‘unstoppable force.'”

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“The Constitution MADE Washington President,” Freeman said. “And ‘by the people & for the people’ is a 19th century democratic view of US gov’t in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Washington did a lot of noteworthy things. But not these.”

Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse in a more light-hearted way, replied to Haley’s original tweet, asking, “As president, he … traveled back in time?”

And it was not just historians who were stupefied at her error.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin asked, “George Washington oversaw the creation of our Constitution WHILE PRESIDENT? Did you know that, kids?” 

An incredulous netizen Katherine tweeted to Haley in response to her faux-pas, “Wait a minute! I’ve had several DC tours with groups of 13 year olds and upon visiting Jefferson and Washington’s home, there was zero talk of Washington ever drafting the constitution because it happened before he was president, Nikki. Next you’ll say he invented cherry pie!”

A dismayed CPA Carol Abney called out Haley for her error, correcting her and stressing the need for elected officials to be educated in American history, all in one swift tweet. “James Madison was the ‘Father of the Constitution’ and was assisted by Thomas Jefferson. How sad for women that you are this uneducated about American History and in your position.”

Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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