Nikki Haley is digging a deeper hole for herself as she continues her apology tour to rectify her comments on the Civil War -- because she's playing the ol' "Black friends" card.
She was asked about her thoughts over the backlash to her blunder during CNN's town hall in Des Moines Thursday night ... the Republican presidential hopeful told host Erin Burnett she should've said slavery was a catalyst for the Civil War straight off the bat.
Nikki elaborated, though, saying she believed the slavery part of it was obvious to her, because South Carolinians grow up talking about the topic -- and not-so-subtly slipped in the line, "I had Black friends growing up ... it is a very talked about thing."
She emphasized that she's always associated the Civil War with slavery ... and with her response, she was merely trying to highlight the lesson learned going forward.
Haley was criticized by the media and pretty much everyone else -- including ex-CNN anchor Don Lemon who blasted her apology tour, saying she didn't show him any grace when he said she was past her prime during a live TV broadcast.