South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended herself Friday from accusations she's using a labor dispute between the Obama administration and the Boeing airplane manufacturer as a stepping stone to national prominence, saying such claims are a red herring for an indefensible position.
But soon after denying the accusation, Haley demurred on whether she'd accept a Republican vice presidential nomination in a hypothetical race against President Obama.
In March, a National Labor Relations Board attorney filed a complaint claiming that Boeing's decision to open its second 787 Dreamliner airplane production line in South Carolina -- a right-to-work state where unions cannot force employees to join -- instead of in Washington -- where the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers operates the first plant -- was an effort to avoid work disruptions.
The union in Washington state has led several strikes against Boeing since the 1970s, most recently in 2005 and 2008.
Boeing says that's bunk, and several U.S. and South Carolina lawmakers have stepped in to save the new factory, which is expected to create 1,000 jobs in the Palmetto State.
Haley, who appeared on Fox News Friday morning, called the labor actions "bullying" and said Obama and Democrats are out-of-touch and damaging to American enterprise.
"It's an assault on everything that we know to be American," she said. "This will cost us jobs. This will cost us companies to go overseas. It's terrible for South Carolina, but it's terrible for the country.
"This is (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and President Obama carrying their water, and making sure our companies are hurting because of it," she added of the NLRB complaint.
Haley then responded to charges made by former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, a Fox News contributor, that she is escalating the dispute between the NLRB and Boeing to elevate her name recognition.
"I think that he has nothing else to say," Haley said in response. "He can't defend the labor unions, so he's attacking me. You know, it's nothing more than he's trying to distract the conversation."
Soon after Haley left the Fox News interview, the question of her future came up again, and she didn't close the door on a possible Republican vice presidential bid.
"I think I am very aware that I am the flavor of the month, which is what happens in politics," The Hill newspaper quoted Haley saying on Mike Gallagher's radio show, "and I will tell you, they need to focus on the top of the ticket.
"I love being governor of South Carolina," she reportedly added. "I have loved fighting Obamacare from the state leadership level. I have loved fighting these labor unions from the state leadership level. There's a lot of federal issues that are being pushed on the states. And the more they pushed on us, the more I'm pushing back."
An administrative law judge will hear the NLRB-Boeing dispute on June 14 in Seattle.