WEST PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump on Wednesday named South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a former critic with little foreign policy experience, as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at a time of uncertainty over America’s international role under his presidency.
Haley, one of two women chosen so far for a job in Trump’s Cabinet, is “a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage,” the Republican president-elect said in a statement.
Trump on Wednesday also picked wealthy Republican donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department.
Haley, the 44-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants, represents what some Republicans hope could be the new face of their party: a younger, more diverse generation of leaders.
Haley took Trump strongly to task during the presidential campaign over his harsh rhetoric about illegal immigration and for not speaking forcefully enough against white supremacists.
Trump has chosen mostly male conservatives so far for senior positions as he shapes his administration following his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election. Trump takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20.
Also on Wednesday, a spokesman for former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Trump had not offered the retired neurosurgeon the post of housing and urban development secretary, disputing a Wall Street Journal report, which the newspaper later corrected.
“Trump did not make an offer,” Carson spokesman Armstrong Williams told Reuters. “He asked him to consider HUD. Nothing has been offered and no decision has been made.”
Carson told Fox News on Wednesday night: “We are considering which is the way that I can be most effective. So that information should come out in the next few days. We will make a public announcement.”
The Wall Street Journal, citing two people familiar with the deliberations, also reported that Trump was expected to pick billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary.
In a video message released ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, Trump said he hoped it would be a time for Americans “to begin to heal our divisions” following a “long and bruising political campaign.”
“Emotions are raw and tensions just don’t heal overnight,” Trump said. “Now begins a great national campaign to rebuild our country and to restore the full promise of America for all of our people.”
The choice of Haley may be aimed at countering criticism of Trump’s divisive comments about immigrants and minorities, as well as accusations of sexism during his election campaign.
Haley led a successful effort last year to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The flag was carried by pro-slavery Confederate forces during the Civil War and is viewed by many as a racist emblem.
Haley said she had accepted Trump’s offer and would remain governor pending her confirmation to the Cabinet-level post by the U.S. Senate.
“When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed,” she said in a statement.
Haley’s job may include reassuring allies worried about some of Trump’s campaign promises, including building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to curb illegal immigration and reviewing trade agreements, and his suggestion that he would push NATO partners to pay more for their own defense.
He has antagonized China, another major power at the United Nations, with his talk on trade and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The New York real estate magnate, who has never held public office, gave few clues about his world view during an extensive interview with The New York Times on Tuesday.
Asked what he sees as America’s role in the world, Trump replied: “That’s such a big question.” When pressed further, he described the Iraq war as a mistake, urged better relations with Russia and called for an end to “that craziness that’s going on in Syria.”
The United States, which along with Russia is one of the five permanent veto powers on the 15-member U.N. Security Council, is also the largest funder of the United Nations, paying more than a quarter of its $8 billion peace-keeping budget and 22 percent of the regular budget.
Trump picked conservatives to lead his national security and law enforcement teams last week, suggesting he plans to make good on his campaign promises to take a hard line on Islamist militancy and curbing illegal immigration
But a relative moderate, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is among the candidates under consideration to head the State Department.
Haley would succeed Obama’s U.N. envoy, Samantha Power, a foreign policy expert before she took the job. In contrast, Haley, a state lawmaker before becoming governor, has little experience in international relations.
She was a robust critic of Trump during the early stages of the Republican presidential nominating race, including condemning him for not disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan and one of the white supremacist group’s former leaders, David Duke.
In a rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union address in January, Haley called for tolerance on immigration and civility in politics, in what some saw as a rebuke of Trump.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said. “We must resist that temptation.”
She supported Trump rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both U.S. senators, in the Republican race before saying last month she would vote for Trump despite reservations about his character.
Haley also criticized Trump last winter for not releasing his tax returns, prompting him to hit back on Twitter: “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed of Nikki Haley!”
DeVos, Trump’s education pick, is a billionaire former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, who has long pushed for a larger role for private education.
Trump said she would “break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back.” Her appointment is also subject to Senate confirmation.
As chair of the American Federation for Children advocacy group, DeVos has advocated for vouchers that families can use to send their children to private schools and for the expansion of charter schools.
The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, condemned DeVos’ nomination. “She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
Additional reporting by Michele Nichols in New York and Susan Heavey, Eric Walsh and Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Doina Chiacu, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Leslie Adler and Bill Rigby