The unions are behind the Occupy Wall Street movement, and two of the television networks that have aired Republican presidential primary debates want "to show chaos" in the GOP, Gov. Nikki Haley told an aerospace trade conference Thursday in Charleston.
Haley spoke about the Occupy movement, which made its way to South Carolina this month, in response to an audience question about the difficulty of competing internationally when the domestic "tone" concerning big corporations is negative. The governor blamed that tone, as seen in the Occupy movement, on the unions.
"Your unions are funding that," she said. "That is their way to distract you. That is their way to distract the American people and make them think the corporations are the bad guys. The second you identify it's the unions doing this, all of a sudden everybody pushes it off."
It's unclear when organized labor first got involved in the Occupy movement, but according to a Washington Post article last week, labor groups are now providing office space, legal help and food to the protesters.
Whereas the tea party was "Republicans, Democrats and Independents saying, 'We've had enough,' " of government control, Haley said, the Occupy movement has "no rhyme or reason" and is "just intended to be a full-scale distraction."
"And it's worked, and the media is continuing to let it work," she said. "What I want people to realize is that's the unions at work. You know, ask those people for driver's licenses. Find out how many of those people sitting there actually live in your state or were sent there by the unions.
"Don't feel bad for being a part of a corporation," she assured the crowd. "You are what makes America great."
Those words seemed to find a friendly audience with the Aerospace Industries Association's International Council, which is holding its annual conference at the Francis Marion Hotel this week. Several attendees also toured Boeing's 787 Dreamliner production facility Wednesday. AIA CEO Marion Blakey came away impressed not only with the plane-making campus in North Charleston but also with South Carolina's broader aerospace workforce-training programs and related infrastructure, which Haley highlighted in her remarks.
"We certainly are very impressed with the way you all are approaching manufacturing jobs down here," Blakey said.
The governor's opening comments to the group closely followed other recent speeches, including her focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs," keeping the cost of doing business in South Carolina low, and supporting Boeing in its legal defense against the National Labor Relations Board.
It was during the question-and-answer session that followed when the governor addressed other national political issues. She said she opposed the pending cuts to the defense budget but did not express a preference among the Republican presidential candidates.
Haley's comments about a debate on Oct. 18 in Las Vegas came in response to a request from a man who identified himself as "a Mt. Pleasant resident who works in Washington." He said that debate was "a little embarrassing" and wanted Haley to tell her fellow Republicans to "keep it civil."
"I actually told Rick Perry that (the) day before yesterday," Haley said, referring to the Texas governor's visit to Columbia on Tuesday, where he unveiled his plan for tax reform.
"It's bothersome when you see the CNN and the MSNBC do the debates because they allow it to get unruly. And they want it to," she continued. "They're wanting to show chaos, and it's up to our candidates to show discipline."
Reporters were not permitted to hear the governor's speech live -- the AIA had decided its entire conference would be private -- but the governor's office provided its video recording of the speech Thursday afternoon upon The Post and Courier's request.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.