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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Admits There’s No Evidence Supporting Her Claim About Drug Testing The Unemployed

By Alex Seitz-Wald on September 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

"South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Admits There’s No Evidence Supporting Her Claim About Drug Testing The Unemployed"

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) admitted today that she was wrong in asserting that half the people who applied to work at a nuclear facility in the state had failed drug tests, yet said she will still push to drug test the unemployed.

Haley has been advancing a plan to force jobless South Carolinians to pass a drug test before they can receive unemployment insurance, claiming an epidemic of substance abuse. The problem was so unbelievable, Haley said last month, that at the Savannah River nuclear site, “[of] everybody they interviewed, half of them failed a drug test.”

So unbelievable, in fact, that a spokesman for the Department of Energy, which owns the site, told the Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney “he had no idea what Haley was talking about.” The site doesn’t even test applicants, just people who have already been accepted, and the rate of those who fail drug tests is less than 1 percent.

At first, Haley’s office doubled down on the claim, blaming others for faulty numbers, but in an interview with the AP today, Haley said she’ll be more careful before blindly repeating things people tell her without checking them:

I’ve never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume that you’re given good information,” Haley said. “And now I’m learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something.”

Haley said she’d probably repeated “a million times” the story that about the test failures before being questioned about the assertions after a Lexington Rotary Club on Sept. 8.

The Savannah River Site story has been central to Haley’s drug testing push. “It’s the reason you hear me focus so much on job training,” Haley told the AP.

“I’m not going to say it anymore,” Haley said, but nonetheless said that she’ll continue her push for drug testing, even though the basis for it is entirely incorrect. As ThinkProgress has noted, mandatory drug testing for unemployment benefits is likely unconstitutional. It’s also just bad policy. The purpose of these laws is to save money, but in Florida, one of the first states to implement drug testing for unemployment benefits, the law is actually costing rather than saving the state money. Ohio is also considering a similar law.

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