June 3rd, 2010
08:33 PM ET
5 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. sally

    This is an incredibly stupid remark which may catapult the so-called "raghead" into the governor's mansion. Seldom but with some degree of regularity in American politics, an idiotic racist statement is made [usually by a conservative] which floors Americans and we are reminded all over again that racism is still alive and well. Lately, however, these instances repel the public and they rebel by voting for the victim of the slur.

    June 3, 2010 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. n

    Racism lives in the Republican Party. It was just a matter of time before someone let a racial slur fly. A Black President is eating up rich white America. They would rather try and destroy this President and let the country fall into chaos than put aside prejudice to help fix this country. The only ones that will suffer are the middle class.

    June 3, 2010 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  3. John

    Raghead. Not even a very clever epithet.

    Keep spoutin' off like this, Republicans. The louder the better. Keep showing your true colors.

    June 3, 2010 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  4. Brian from SC

    To Sen. Jake Knotts: In the words of one of your most esteemed colleagues....YOU LIE! I don't have much respect for your party, but its amazing how you show sure profound respect to another member of your own party.

    Your GOP party needs a haircut or shape up on its shady policies. I'd rather deal with President Obama's steady, calculated and long term approach to economic recovery, instead of your microwave (we want it now)...lets not pay any taxes and expect results philosophy.

    Learn some manners, courtesy and respect. Perhaps if you cared about public education like "our beloved" Gov. Sanford (who is opposed to it)...our state might redeem its marred reputation.

    You will not receive a vote from my household.

    You will not get my vote.

    June 3, 2010 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. derrick

    Wow another Republican Racist....why does that not surprise me

    June 3, 2010 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  6. Joe Brown

    Some people are not fit to be in public office.

    June 3, 2010 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  7. Bill Brooker

    Anyone surprised to hear of a South Carolina politician using slurs? Hope this guy's career is done, over, and kicked in the nuts on his way out. Whether used against a Democrat President or a Republican, it is wrong and shows the true imbecilic, childish nature of someone.

    June 4, 2010 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  8. Trey

    So since this senator has now publicly displayed her racism, is she going to step down? If not, someone should force her to.

    June 4, 2010 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  9. Andrew Kelly

    The sad part is that the man truly meant what he said, and he is in our government.

    June 4, 2010 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  10. moreofthesame

    Another indication that, despite the election of our president, things have not changed. Sorry folks, we're not a "post-racial society," yet.

    June 4, 2010 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  11. normajean

    I cannot believe that a United States senator, in this case Jake Knotts of South Carolina could be so low class ,street trash, and generally disgusting as to call the president of our country "rag head".This says a lot about him, and nothing about a man who was chosen and voted into the office he holds because the majority of the people wanted him.. We don't always like our representatives but we treat them with the kind of respect that is expected and that we want to receive ourselves. You Senator deserve not only to be treated like the trash you throw around, but I bet you won't be in public office much longer .We don't need your type in our government.The reputation of your state has been taking more than enough blows lately. They don't need you.

    June 4, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  12. Thomas, Illinois

    Real classy Jake!!!

    June 4, 2010 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  13. Carolyn

    What does this say about us as responsible citizens when we elect to ANY governmental position, people like Mr. Jake Knotts of S. Carolina? When you consider that our country was founded by immigrants from all over the world, making us the wolrd's melting pot, where many races have blended over several hundred years, I wonder what Mr. Knotts' 'pedigree' would look like.

    June 4, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  14. Oodoodanoo

    “'We already got one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion," Knotts said"

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

    Yeah, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal and Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa Haley. They really accept you. Change your name, change your religion to be one of them, and this is what you'll get in return.

    I'm keeping my name, my religion, my dignity, and my distance from the GOP. I did my schooling, I obey the law, and I pay lots and lots of taxes. I don't owe anyone anything more.

    June 4, 2010 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  15. ephraim

    And one still wonder's how the Republicans can swear with a straight face that racism doesn't just color but drive their political rhetoric and agenda.
    Its the centerpiece of their philosophy...The south continues to look as though they live in the 19th century...

    June 4, 2010 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. Bill from SoCal

    We also have dozens of ignorant Republic fools like Knotts holding public office. Hopefully voters will help rectify that problem in November.

    June 4, 2010 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  17. Disgusted Iowan

    Why is anybody surprised? She represents mainstream America and much as we want to convince ourselves otherwise, majority of American southerners are rabid racists. Thank goodness Obama won..from Hannity, Palin, Rush, Tea Party followers, there isn't any doubt where we stand on race anymore...

    June 4, 2010 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  18. sun

    remember macaca George Allen, the would-be president? republicans on racist rant alienate everyone. Answer republicans by voting against them everywhere.

    June 4, 2010 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  19. New Yorker

    This man just made me puke in my mouth

    June 4, 2010 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  20. Scott Harper

    Well, this kind of poisonous rhetoric coming from intolerant idiots who hold political office in South Carolina is starting to become the norm and expected in the public news. It's too bad that this trend continues to be a consistent response from bigoted and racist pin-heads who have just enough education to come out of a shower of rain, needless to say that South Carolina political figures continue to be an embarrassment to the rest of the country. Aside from Texas, South Carolina has become the laughing stock of America, which is unfortunate, because there are good people living in South Carolina who are tolerant, open minded, and well educated.

    June 4, 2010 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  21. Independent One

    I will vote for her.........

    June 4, 2010 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  22. Whimsy1

    What is wrong with that man? Good grief! He should be rebuked by the state legislature and should appologize to Haley and all of his own constituents. This man considers himself a leader? I hope Lt. Governor Bauer calls upon him to apologize also.

    Shame on him! He epitomizes what is wrong with this country. Far too much name calling and hate mongering. Enough!!

    June 4, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  23. sun

    by the way, bobby jindal in louisiana comes from same background, wonder what he says about his GOP colleague

    June 4, 2010 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  24. pj

    Whats really sick is that there are sheep out their that listen to this usless piece of humanity and vote. Why is he not charged with hate speech? No guts Florida?

    June 4, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  25. bill

    Good God! To think that we fought a Civil War to keep these idiots
    in the Union. Is it too late to let South Carolina secede and have to live all by themselves?

    June 4, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
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