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Trump Shares Bogus Claim About Haley’s Eligibility to Serve as President

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Quick Take

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, and as a natural born citizen is eligible to serve as U.S. president. But social media posts — including one shared by former President Donald Trump — falsely claim she is ineligible because her parents weren’t American citizens when she was born.

Full Story

Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, was born on Jan. 20, 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina. Haley is now running to be the Republican nominee for president, and as a natural born citizen, she is eligible to serve in that position, according to constitutional scholars.

As we have written before, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Ratified in 1868, the 14th Amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

But posts on social media falsely claim she is ineligible to serve because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born. Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, shared the bogus claim on Jan. 8 on his social media platform, Truth Social, citing an Instagram post from the conservative website Gateway Pundit.

“In @NikkiHaley’s situation, reports indicate that her parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth in 1972. Based on the Constitution as interpreted by @PaulIngrassia, this disqualifies Haley from presidential or vice-presidential candidacy under the 12th Amendment,” the post said.

The Gateway Pundit is referring to Paul Ingrassia, a 2022 Cornell Law School graduate, who wrote on Substack that the U.S. Constitution “absolutely prohibits” Haley from becoming president or vice president. (In his Substack bio, Ingrassia says his Substack is “President Trump’s go-to source on political and social commentary.”)

Haley’s parents were born in the Punjab region of India and immigrated to the U.S., she wrote in her autobiography, “Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story.” Her father became a U.S. citizen in 1978 and her mother in 2003.

But the citizenship status of Haley’s parents at the time of her birth are irrelevant to her eligibility to serve as president, constitutional experts say. Similar false claims were made about Kamala Harris in 2020, when Joe Biden chose her as his vice presidential running mate. Social media posts claimed Harris could not serve as president, if such a need occurred, because her Indian mother and Jamaican father were not American citizens when she was born.

As we wrote at that time, Josh Chafetz, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center specializing in constitutional law, called those posts “racist nonsense.”

Chafetz told us in an email in 2020: “To serve as president, one must be at least 35 years old, have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years, and be a ‘natural born Citizen’ (Article II, sec. 1 of the Constitution).  Additionally, one cannot have already been president for more than a term and a half (22nd Amendment).” 

Chafetz also said the fact that Harris’ parents were immigrants is “wholly irrelevant” to her eligibility to serve as president.

Responding to the claims about Haley by Gateway Pundit, Geoffrey Stone, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, told the Associated Press, “Having been born in South Carolina, [Haley] is clearly a ‘natural born citizen,’ without regard to the fact that her parents were immigrants.” 

Stone also told the AP that there are no legitimate arguments that Haley is ineligible to serve as president based on her parents’ citizenship when she was born.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, told NBC News that the “birther claims against Nikki Haley are totally baseless as a legal and constitutional matter.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Britannica.com. Nikki Haley biography. Accessed 10 Jan 2024.

Congress.gov. “Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.” Accessed 10 Jan 2024.

Farley, Robert. “Trump Challenges Birthright Citizenship.” FactCheck.org. 13 Nov 2015.

Goldin, Melissa. “False claims question Haley’s eligibility to serve as US president.” Associated Press. 2 Jan 2024.

Haley, Nikki. “Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story.” Amazon.com. Accessed 10 Jan 2024.

Hillyard, Vaughn and Amanda Terkel. “Trump promotes ‘totally baseless’ birther conspiracy theory against Nikki Haley.” NBC News. 9 Jan 2024.

Library of Congress. “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875.” Article XIV. Memory.loc.gov. Accessed 10 Jan 2024.

Paul Ingrassia. Substack. Accessed 10 Jan 2024.

Thenappan, Bala. “Kamala Harris Is Eligible to Serve as President.” FactCheck.org. 11 Aug 2020.