Outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gave the keynote address at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City on Thursday night. It was the first major appearance Haley has made since she announced her impending resignation last week.
The daughter of immigrants from India, recalled the first time President Trump learned of her heritage. “When the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” she quipped, referencing the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who released a DNA test this week that showed she has a distant Native American ancestor.
Haley also made jokes about President Donald Trump “[Trump] said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments… It really killed at the UN.”
Haley was the keynote speaker at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, an annual white-tie gala that benefits Catholic charities and is hosted by by the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
And so it went during Haley’s 17-minute speech to the 73rd Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. She not only poked fun at her boss — who was a repeated target — and Warren, a potential 2020 rival of his. She also took jabs at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and convicted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The 46-year-old former governor of South Carolina said the Catholic charity invited her because they wanted “to spice things up” at this year’s dinner, after a “choir boy” appearance last year by House Speaker Paul Ryan. “I get it. You wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test,” Haley joked.
Towards the end of her speech, Haley discussed the current political climate saying. “In our toxic political life, I’ve heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil. In America, our political opponents are not evil. In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children, that is evil. In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death, that was evil. In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil, they’re just our opponents.”
It’s no big secret who Haley is talking about without naming here: Donald Trump.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said in a tweet that this comment was “why folks in the West Wing were so annoyed with the showy Haley departure – they knew she would take shots [at] Trump from the outside. Started early.”
Thursday night’s speech was the first major public appearance Haley has made since she announced last week her intention to resign from her post at the end of the year.
The move sparked discussion about whether Haley might be intending to run for president, perhaps even challenging Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, but Haley shot down those rumors during a press conference at the White House – going so far as to say she intended to help campaign for the president.
However, her resignation was seen by many as a way for Haley, who has become a highly respected figure, to distance herself from the chaos of the Trump administration so that she can pursue higher office later on.
The dinner, now in its seventh-decade, raised almost $4 million for the Catholic children’s charities this year.
The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation honors the late governor of New York and America’s first Catholic presidential nominee.