Transcript: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on “Face the Nation,” Jan. 21, 2024

Transcript: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on “Face the Nation,” Jan. 21, 2024

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The following is a transcript of an interview with Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, that aired on Jan. 21, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We go now to the Republican governor of the state of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Good morning, Governor.

GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Good morning, Margaret. It’s great to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s good to talk to you. You are one of the youngest, if not the youngest governor in the state, the first female governor of Arkansas. I want to ask you about a number of things, including the current Arkansas law, we’ve been talking a lot about reproductive health. The law bans abortions except to save the mother’s life in a medical emergency, no exceptions for rape or incest. Your Attorney General has twice recently rejected ballot measures that would repeal the ban and give a limited right to abortion up until 18 weeks of conception. As Governor, are you open to any ballot initiative?

GOV. SANDERS: Look, I’m proud of the fact that Arkansas is one of the most pro-life states in the country. I’m unapologetically pro-life, I believe that we are a culture that protects life, that values life. I think that’s who we are as a country. And I’ll continue to support those measures.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- I know those are your personal convictions, but would you seek the opinion of your constituents on this? I mean, some of the Attorney General’s objections. One of the things he objected to was replacing the word conception with fertilization. And another one, it was narrowing a medical emergency to threat to physical health and defining it just as that. I mean, they seem to be tweaks. On the premise though, would you be open to seeking the opinion of your constituents in a ballot initiative?

GOV. SANDERS: Arkansas overwhelmingly pro-life state, I’m proud of that fact and proud of where we are. And we’ll continue to push for things that I think protect all innocent human life. It’s why we haven’t just focused on pro-life legislation. But we’ve also done things in the foster and adoption care space. It’s why I’ve spent so much time focusing on education, empowering every single Arkansan to have a great quality of life. We are looking at every aspect and making sure that we’re doing what we can to protect and value life at every stage here in the state of Arkansas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, it sounds like a no? You wouldn’t want to put it on a ballot?

GOV. SANDERS: I’m not going to put a blanket on anything that could come forward. But as it stands right now, I haven’t seen anything that I would be supportive of.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, your state, you’re talking about the sanctity of life, your state had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, according to the CDC up until about 2021. Arkansas is one of the few states that hasn’t extended postpartum care for mothers. Why don’t you want those moms to get care for a full 12 months, as is being offered, instead of just 60 days?

GOV. SANDERS: Well, I’m gonna have to disagree with the premise of your question saying that I don’t want that. I certainly want us to do everything that we can to help during pregnancy and well after a child is born, which is why we have done things like focus on the foster and adoption care, we’ve put significant funding into our pregnancy crisis centers, we’re focusing on things that help our mothers, including bring your kids to work at state government. We’ve expanded maternity leave for state employees, we included that in our education package. We have taken a number of steps that are very positive in this front. And we’re going to continue to do that as long as I’m governor.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the states of Mississippi, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, they did extend for 12 months rather than the 60 days. So, I’m just wondering specifically on that option, why you opted out?

GOV. SANDERS: We’re gonna continue to look at options that we feel like best help people here in the state of Arkansas, we’ve done that in a number of ways and we’re going to continue to do that over the course of hopefully the next seven years while I’m governor of Arkansas.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I want to ask you as well about what is happening with the kids in your state. I was interested to see that you are not among the 15 Republican governors who rejected a new federal program to give food assistance to eight million children during the summer months. You opted into that– 

GOV. SANDERS: I did. I– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — A number of Republican guidance say on premise that- that- that- this- this violates conservative principles. So why are they wrong? And why are you okay with this federal program?

GOV. SANDERS: Well, I want to focus on why I think it helps our state. Arkansas in the past has ranked at the bottom when it comes to food insecurity for children. I don’t think any child should ever go hungry if we have options available to us to help improve that. That’s exactly what we’re going to do. That’s why we’ve opted into this program. We’re going to continue to look for ways to help and protect kids in our state. And I was proud to be part of that program. And we’ll continue to look for options to help move Arkansas out of the bottom when it comes to food insecurity and into the top.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are, as we said at the get go there, the youngest governor in the country. And I wonder when you look at your party right now, what does it say about the party and about our politics that not only is the President of the United States at such an advanced age, but the Republican front runner Donald Trump, 77 years old here- are these much older individuals, really the new generation that you’ve been calling for?

GOV. SANDERS: I think this election right now is very simple. It’s a very clear contrast, you have two individuals who have a four-year record to run on. One has a record of success coming from a posture and a position of strength in Donald Trump, and one who comes from a position of weakness. Every single thing that voters actually care about, every single thing that drives voters to show up and cast their ballot. Donald Trump is winning on, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s securing the border, whether it’s national security, whether it’s taking a hard line against China, every single one of those major issues that really drive voters, Donald Trump is dominating Joe Biden on, and they both have clear records in which to run from, and I have no doubt that the matchup in November will declare Donald Trump a clear victor because of that- that contrast.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, he’s only four years younger than the president whose age you’ve- you’ve criticized, but your predecessor as governor, Asa Hutchinson, just recently ended his presidential bid and he endorsed Nikki Haley. He said, “Anyone who believes Donald Trump will unite this country has been asleep over the last eight years. Trump intentionally tries to divide America.” Do you honestly, Sarah- Sorry, Governor Sanders, I’m used to calling you Sarah from- from the front row at the White House there? Do you honestly believe Trump is going to unite the country this time, when in the first term, that you were part of, the country was very divided?

GOV. SANDERS: You know, one of the things that I think is so often left out of Donald Trump’s story is the patriotism and the love of country that he brought back. We haven’t seen that in this president– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — What do you mean by that? 

GOV. SANDERS:– In fact, we’ve seen the total opposite. We see people who believe in America again, who see the strength of our country. We brought back American manufacturing, we secured our border, we had a strong economy, our enemies abroad actually feared us and our allies actually respected us. Instead of the people now are across the- the other side of the world are laughing at us and taking advantage of the weakness of this President. Donald Trump– you know, you joked a minute ago, you called me Sarah, instead of Governor, you know, your colleagues called me a lot of other things. I’ll take Sarah all day over some of the things that the media and the left called me. But when those things were happening, the person who was defending me, empowering me to do my job was Donald Trump. I know that he can deliver again, because he’s done it before. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: No– Governor, I think we’ve always had a respectful exchange, you and I, so I don’t think we’re part of the media group you’re talking about– 

GOV. SANDERS: — I didn’t say you, I was– 

MARGARET BRENNAN:– Right. But- but on the substance of the question, in terms of uniting the country, I mean, some of the policy things you just rattled off, as you know, immigration has been broken for decades. And those border problems were border problems under President Trump. The Middle East policies he had didn’t solve issues. I mean, in fact, we are seeing the conflict in Israel really flare up in a way, he didn’t broker the peace deal he promised. He didn’t get Russia out of Ukraine. She didn’t improve relations with China. So how can you point to that as a- as a high point without recognizing that even he says the work was not finished?

GOV. SANDERS: Well, that’s why we need him to come back for four years because he didn’t get to finish, but he certainly made significant progress. Our border was far more secure under President Trump, than under President Biden, I had the chance to go to the border myself. And while I was there, met with those who are standing on the front lines, including members of the Arkansas National Guard that we deployed, because the federal government is not doing their job, states are having to step up. And in meeting with those individuals, they told us that more people had come across in just that month, just that month on the terrorist watch list than in the entire four years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Donald Trump was actually taking steps to secure our border, to strengthen our country. It’s hard to argue that having a good economy, having safe and secure borders, taking a hard line against China, those are empowering and unifying things for our country–  

MARGARET BRENNAN:– Would you be his VP if asked? 

GOV. SANDERS: — And only- hold on I want to just finish this one point. And only one of two people in the race has actually delivered on each of those things. And it’s Donald Trump, not Joe Biden.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’d be open to vetting to be his vice president potentially?

GOV. SANDERS: Look, I absolutely love the job I have. I think it’s one of the best jobs I could ever ask for. And I am honored to serve as governor, and I hope I get to do it for the next seven years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Next seven years. All right. That sounds like two terms. Maybe a no. Governor Sanders. Thank you. We’ll be right back.



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