June 3rd, 2010
08:33 PM ET
4 years ago

Nikki Haley called 'raghead' by political opponent

'We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion,' a South Carolina Republican said Thursday referring to the president and Nikki Haley, pictured.
'We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion,' a South Carolina Republican said Thursday referring to the president and Nikki Haley, pictured.

(CNN) - A longtime South Carolina state Senator with a reputation for blunt language used the term “raghead” to describe Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley and President Obama during an appearance on a political talk show Thursday.

Haley is of Indian-American descent.

State Sen. Jake Knotts, who backs Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer in the four-way Republican primary battle, made the remark during an interview on “Pub Politics,” a popular online political talk show in Columbia.

“We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion,” Knotts said, according to multiple people present for the broadcast.

Knotts made the comment after discussing Haley’s Sikh background, said Phil Bailey, one of the show’s hosts and the communications director for the South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus.

Haley was raised in a Sikh family but is now a practicing Methodist.

Bailey told CNN that Knotts unexpectedly showed up at the webcast and was invited to sit down with the hosts and their panel, which featured two state representatives.

The show’s other host is Wesley Donehue, a Republican operative whose name surfaced in text messages posted online by conservative blogger Will Folks, who alleged last week that he had an affair with Haley. In the text messages, Folks accuses Donehue of shopping rumors about the alleged relationship, which Haley has denied.

Rep. Boyd Brown, a Democrat, was one of the show’s guests Thursday. He said he was “taken back and appalled” by Knotts’ remark.

“He said some things he shouldn’t have said. That’s Jakey,” Brown told CNN. “If I could have crawled under the table I would have.”

Haley campaign manager Tim Pearson blasted Knotts, saying he "represents all that is wrong with South Carolina politics.”

“He’s an embarrassment to our state and to the Republican Party,” Pearson said. “South Carolina is so much better than this, and the people of our state will make that quite clear next Tuesday.”

South Carolina Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd called on Knotts to apologize.

“The South Carolina Republican Party strongly condemns any use of racial or religious slurs,” Floyd said in a statement to CNN. “Senator Knotts should apologize for his inappropriate comments, so that we can put this unfortunate incident behind us and focus on issues important to moving our state forward.”

Repeated attempts to reach Knotts for comment were not successful.

Along with Haley and Bauer, Attorney General Henry McMaster and Rep. Gresham Barrett are also seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination. The primary is June 8.

CORRECTION: The initial version of this story said the video of Knotts' remark was pulled from Ustream after the broadcast. Donehue told CNN the video was not removed from the web, and will be posted online Friday.


Filed under: 2010 • Nikki Haley • Popular Posts • South Carolina
soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Watchdawg

    Racism is alive and well in the South. Enough said

    June 4, 2010 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  2. Sandra Thorne

    This name calling is getting out of hand. If they want to act like children then treat them as children, ignore the the chatter.

    June 4, 2010 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  3. Steve Fielder

    Jake Knotts is another in a growing list of outspokenly racist GOP officeholders in what seems to be a widening trend toward bigotry in the modern Republican Party.

    June 4, 2010 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  4. Aaron

    It's a good thing they're both Repubs, otherwise the Dems would get blamed for promoting rascism....unless, it's all a ruse perpetrated by the Dems! LOL

    June 4, 2010 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  5. Jon

    Basically – screw that guy.

    June 4, 2010 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  6. The Truth, Please...I Just Want The Truth

    Neither Nikki Haley nor President Obama are "ragheads". What we are witnessing is what this so-called "conservative" movement is really all about...restoring white-only rule and keeping minorities from serving in public office.

    Jake Knotts should be ashamed of himself...but I know he isn't. White supremacists are NEVER ashamed of their reprehensible behavior.

    June 4, 2010 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  7. Patrick

    Disgraceful. Disgusting. What else can be said? Whatever happened to any semblance of civility?

    Applying racial slurs to anyone is small-minded, but applying it to especially the president, whether you like his politics or not, is beyond the pale for a supposed "leader".

    June 4, 2010 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  8. Nathan

    It never cease to amaze me how these racist attitudes always float to the surface. These people can't help themselves. Its like a disease that lurks below the skin and then has to become a rash for eceryone to see. The republican party don't even like people in their own party who are different then them. These people would be funny if they weren't so pathetic. To be a republican you have to be white, protestant and hate everyone else. Thats the core criteria to join that group. They let in the likes of Steele and Jindal for cosmetics purposes but who would bet against how many times those 2 were called racist names in closed door republicans meetings. The can't help themselves.

    June 4, 2010 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  9. SteveB

    Let's see if ANY Republicans condemn his blatantly racist and untrue statements – and no, saying "You should say 'Sorry' ", is NOT a condemnation. It's political strategy and PR.

    Sadly, I don't think there will be many. A few might say something about Haley but if any Republican condemns his remarks about the president I will fall out of my chair in shock.

    June 4, 2010 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  10. Jen

    Dear South Carolina Republican Party:

    Thanks for making us look just a little bit better.

    Love and kisses,
    Arizona Republican Party

    June 4, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  11. lovable liberal

    Republicans can be embarrassed? Who knew?

    Knotts is a knot-headed bigot, no doubt, but I actually suspect he was calling the Indian premier the other raghead, since he's a Sikh and just visited President Obama in the White House, turban and all.

    Knotts probably has other nasty things to say about Obama...

    This being South Carolina, though, you know there's probably a whispering campaign going on already about whether Haley is really truly a Christian.

    June 4, 2010 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  12. clog82

    Is anyone really shocked by this? He's an old white GOPer from South Carolina- it's almost to be expected. His public "apology" over these remarks was just as repugnant.

    June 4, 2010 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  13. Angelique

    And that sort of comment is the exact reason why most of the Republican's in congress are USELESS. How about you focus on intelligent discussion of the issues?!

    June 4, 2010 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  14. JP

    Another moron flying the Repuglican flag.

    June 4, 2010 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  15. ak steve

    A republican from the south used racially offensive language? What do you expect from uneducated bigots with power?

    The GOP sure is showing its true colors (or lack there of) these past few days. Lying, cheating, stealing and racial slurs. These are our representatives? We want our children to grow up with these folks as our leaders?

    Time to wake up to the new century America. The GOP seems to be stuck in reverse.

    June 4, 2010 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  16. move America forward -dont take our county backwards

    really? ragheads!! the more the southern republicans speak the more they polarize our political atmosphere. What the hell
    !!!! are we back in the the 50's and 60's?? the more I hear our conservative "Americans" speak the more I'm glad we are being run by a progressive administration and President. I will!!! for one do everything in my power to make sure a Democrat continues in the presidency. even if that means waking up my people whose well being,progress and safety is not the priority of these conservatives.

    June 4, 2010 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  17. Aaron NC

    I bet Knotts mistakenly thinks he is a good Christian... I am a fiscal conservative, following many of Milton Friedman's ideas, but the pure ignorance of some members of the southern republican party drive me away. "Raghead"? Are you serious? The University of South Carolina has an elite, top 5, international business program and maybe ole Knotts should visit that campus so he can see some highly intelligent people who understand that diversity can lead to some great trading partners and strength.

    June 4, 2010 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  18. MARKPAIN

    My job as an over the road truck driver has me in South Carolina now. I know thats nothing special but if Governor Bobby Jindal was here maybe that would be something .

    June 4, 2010 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  19. Hudson River Dem

    I guess Knotts hasn't heard the Right Wing White Male Dynasty in American politics is OVER!
    What an racist, mysoganistic idiot...
    Good luck South Carolina!

    June 4, 2010 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  20. greg the progressive

    Crap, now I got to feel sorry for her. South Carolina republican politics is awfully ugly.

    June 4, 2010 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  21. vs

    It just reaffirms the fact that bigotry, ignorance and greed are the three pillars of the republican right. Those belonging to ethnic minorities such as Nikki "Nimrata" Haley need to realize that no matter how much they try to fit in by denying their heritage, the true base of the right will always view them with derision. Please don't allow your greed for office overcome your self respect. I hope that you have some left.

    June 4, 2010 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
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