Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, center, answers a question, flanked by former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, during the Republican Presidential Debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Wednesday. Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley told entrepreneur and fellow Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy to keep her daughter “out of your voice” during a contentious moment on the debate stage in Miami on Wednesday night.

Ramaswamy was asked how he could ban TikTok – the popular Chinese-owned social media app that has drawn scrutiny across the U.S. government – if he is an active user himself.

Before explaining that the social media platform is important to reach younger generations of Americans, Ramaswamy said he wanted to “laugh at why Nikki Haley didn’t answer your question, which is about looking at families in the eye.”

“In the last debate she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time,” he said. “So you might want to take care of your family first.”

As the crowd loudly booed Ramaswamy, a visibly angry Haley told Ramaswamy to leave her daughter, who is in her 20s, out of it.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” she said. “You’re just scum.”


Ramaswamy and Haley have clashed repeatedly throughout the three debates this campaign cycle. This, however, was the first time Ramaswamy targeted a member of Haley’s family – drawing clear condemnation from the crowd.

The U.S. government and nearly 40 states have banned the use of TikTok on government-owned devices.

The app is massively popular worldwide, particularly among younger internet users. While TikTok offers one of the most potent online megaphones for politicians to reach millennial and Gen Z voters, it is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, raising a host of national security concerns as politicians become increasingly wary of the competitive threat posed by China.

That didn’t stop Ramaswamy from joining the app earlier this year, where he has been courting young voters on the app, including by posting videos that show “a day in the life” on the campaign trail and dancing with internet provocateur Jake Paul.

Ramaswamy joined TikTok just days after calling the app “digital fentanyl from China, flowing through our phones instead of the southern border.”

During a September debate, Haley criticized Ramaswamy’s TikTok posts as “infuriating,” highlighting divisions within the GOP over the controversial social media app.


“TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media assets that we could have,” Haley said. “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”

Ramaswamy – who at age 38 is pitching himself as the next iteration of former president Donald Trump – has repeatedly defended his use of TikTok by arguing that Republicans need to meet young voters “where they are.”

Days after the September debate, Haley doubled down on her criticism of Ramaswamy’s use of TikTok, telling “Fox News Sunday” that “just because 150 million people are on it, doesn’t mean you do it because it’s politically popular.”

“This is the Chinese Communist Party, who is doing espionage,” Haley said of the app.

Haley has said TikTok can access users’ contacts, financial information, emails and text messages, but there is no proof of that. A review by The Washington Post found Facebook and other U.S.-made apps gathered just as much data as TikTok, if not more.


The Washington Post’s Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report.

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