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Media Talking Heads Stunned by Nikki Haley’s Resignation

Speculation is running rampant after U.S. ambassador to the U.N. announced her plans to exit the Trump administration

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s abrupt announcement Tuesday that she was resigning from her post stunned people in Washington, D.C., opened the door to rampant speculation, and left shocked mainstream media members scrambling to piece the story together.

“[Haley] was late to jump on the Trump train, but she does seem to have a good working relationship with the president,” “MediaBuzz” host Howard Kurtz of Fox News said on the network’s “America’s Newsroom.”

“But I’ve got to tell you — my ‘spidey sense’ tells me there is more to the story.”

“It is very entertaining watching the journalists scramble for explanations and like, ‘Why wasn’t this leaked to us more than 20 minutes in advance, because secrets are so hard to keep in D.C.?'” Kurtz added.

Axios’ Jonathan Swan first reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump had accepted Haley’s resignation. Haley (pictured above) reportedly discussed details surrounding her resignation with Trump last week. The president told reporters that Haley had broached the topic of resigning near her two-year mark with him six months ago.

The two appear to be parting on good terms, and Haley told reporters during her joint appearance with Trump on Tuesday that she has no 2020 political ambitions. Although Haley offered no specific reason as to why she chose to resign, she told reporters that all government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.”

“As you read the mass fevered speculation about Nikki Haley’s motivations … I broke the story and still have no idea about the real back story. Some very senior officials — including [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo — were taken by surprise,” Swan noted on Twitter.

Haley, a former GOP South Carolina governor and the nation’s second Indian-American governor, is one of Trump’s most widely respected and well-liked officials. Although she criticized Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign, as an ambassador Haley has offered full-throated defenses of Trump’s “America First” policies.

CNN commentator Keith Boykin tweeted, “Nikki Haley in 2016: Donald Trump is ‘everything a governor doesn’t want in a president.’ Nikki Haley today with Trump: ‘The U.S. is strong again.'”

“Trump saying Nikki Haley, a woman who fearlessly took on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, made the U.N. ambassador’s post ‘more glamorous’ actually made me throw up in my mouth a little,” CNN host S.E. Cupp tweeted.

Mainstream media members reacted predictably and speculated about Haley’s reasoning for leaving the Trump administration and the timing of her announcement with varying degrees of bias.

“Nikki Haley now resigned. [Former national security adviser] HR McMaster forced out. Only [Secretary of Defense] Jim Mattis remains from the Nat Sec leadership team Axis of Adults,” CNN’s John Avlon tweeted.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius worried on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” about “what the implications for the president are” with Haley’s resignation’s occurring in “such a delicate period.”

“My own first instinct is when you lose one of the most prominent women — perhaps the most prominent woman — in your administration at a time when Trump’s relationships with women, and dealings with issues that matter to women are of key concern to the country, that’s got to be trouble for Trump,” Ignatius said.

Ignatius appeared to be referring in part to the fallout from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s bitterly partisan confirmation process, which was rocked by last-minute sexual assault allegations.

“It’s more the politics of this that interest me. Nikki Haley’s going to be in play now any time any issue involving women’s issues, foreign policy comes up, people will ask what does Nikki Haley think? That is probably just what she wants,” he added.

Anchor Andrea Mitchell described Haley as “one of the administration’s last moderate Republican voices” and discussed “the politics of this — high-level female appointee, a more moderate Republican, hard-line on some things, but certainly at odds with the president’s policies disbanding U.N. relief agencies and contributions to the agencies.”

It’s far from clear why Mitchell described Haley as a “moderate,” since the ambassador emerged on the national scene as part of the Tea Party insurgency within the Republican Party in 2009.

Reporter Sabrina Siddiqui of The Guardian told Mitchell that Haley’s timing was interesting in view of the upcoming midterm elections, where “there is certainly a lot of indication that it is going to be a potentially big year for Democrats.”

“So if you are someone like Nikki Haley who has higher political ambitions, you might want to get out before you have a narrative about an administration that is beset by further turmoil,” she suggested.

The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein read from Haley’s official resignation letter, saying, “She, notably at the bottom of her resignation letter, told the president, ‘I will speak out from time to time.’ She promised she would not run for any office in 2020, but she definitely did not preclude the idea that she would speak out.”

“And if you read … between the lines, it seems like she is telling him, ‘I might speak out against you,'” Stein added.

Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn tweeted, “Remember Nikki Haley has enabled a man who mocked a sexual assault victim, who referred to white supremacists as ‘very fine people,’ who praised a murderous dictator, and who colluded with Putin’s coverup of the Russian attack on the United States. She owns all that.”

The Atlantic’s David Frum speculated, “Nikki Haley out hours after President Trump calls Blasey Ford an evil hoaxer. Probably just a coincidence.”

Ford was the first women who came forward alleging that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago during a high school gathering in Maryland.

CNN’s Kaitlin Collins said on “Inside Politics” that “we’re going to expect a lot of people” in the Trump administration to resign “after the midterm elections” and wondered, “Who else would leave?”

Related: Nikki Haley Resigns as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

CNN anchor John King said Haley “was able to keep her neocon, conservative credentials, embrace Trumpism to a degree” and “now she gets out and can watch this from afar and pick her moment to come back in.”

Kurtz predicted on “America’s Newsroom” that “eventually we will find out that perhaps Nikki Haley was a little bit frustrated about policymaking, not necessarily about every issue.”

But Fox News anchor Brett Baier also said on “America’s Newsroom” that he didn’t believe Haley’s “surprising” resignation resulted from negative reasons.

“She has been … someone who has really stood up for Trump foreign policy. Every aspect of it,” Baier noted.

Townhall political editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson tweeted, “I’m still a bit puzzled on the timing & exact reasons, BUT … it would appear Nikki Haley just managed to depart the Trump administration: — 100% on her own terms — 100% amicably — With an *enhanced* reputation. Quite a feat, actually.”

ABC News’ “The View” co-host Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), expressed her “love” for Haley, saying, “My birthday is coming up. They asked me my ideal birthday guest. I said [Haley]. If she ends up primarying President Trump, girl, I’ll run your campaign.”

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].