Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brought up bathroom access as one of many attacks on former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the fourth Republican presidential primary debate.
“They had a bill to try to say that men shouldn’t go into girls’ bathrooms, and she killed that bill,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis has a point that the bill died and Haley had criticized it. But Haley — who said DeSantis criticized bathroom bills before he became governor — also has a point.
As governor, Haley said in 2016 that she didn’t believe it was “necessary” to pass a Senate bill that would have required people to use the bathroom that aligned with their sex. At the time, a similar law in North Carolina, HB 2, had sparked backlash and caused several businesses and artists to boycott the state.
The South Carolina bill, which would have applied to public and school restrooms, stalled in committee, so it never made it to Haley’s desk.
During the Dec. 6 debate, Haley said she opposed the bill because of a lack of incidents involving transgender people in bathrooms. This was consistent with what The Washington Post reported in 2016 that she said at that time. In a 2022 appearance on Fox News she again said that she “strong-armed” the bill, saying schools should resolve the issue with parents.
Haley lobbed a similar accusation at DeSantis: “When he was running for governor and they asked him about that, he said he didn’t think bathroom bills were a good use of his time.”
Her campaign cited a clip of DeSantis from his 2018 run for Florida governor in which he said at a campaign event that he would “not pass a law” restricting bathroom access. DeSantis said in the clip that “getting into the bathroom wars — I don’t think that’s a good use of our time.”
Flash-forward: In May 2023, DeSantis signed a law that restricts transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity in public schools, universities, government buildings and prisons, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
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