S.C. Lawmaker Refers to Obama and Nikki Haley as "Raghead"

South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley, right, is joined by her husband Michael Haley in Greenville, S.C., Monday, May 24, 2010, as she denies allegations surrounding an affair. AP

AP

It has been quite a campaign for South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (pictured).

Haley, who has the backing of Sarah Palin, has faced two allegations of extramarital affairs in recent weeks - both of which she has vehemently denied. Now she is in the middle of a controversy involving one of her rivals, state Sen. Jake Knotts, who called her - along with President Obama - a "raghead."

"We already got one raghead in the White House," Knotts said on an Internet political talk show last night, according to The State. "We don't need another in the Governor's Mansion."

Haley's parents are Indian immigrants, and she was raised as a Sikh before converting to become Methodist. Citing those who saw Knotts' comments, The State reports that he "talked at length about Haley's parents' religion and her family" on the show.

The newspaper notes that when Haley ran for the South Carolina House six years ago, anonymous fliers surfaced erroneously calling her Hindu.

Both Knotts and Haley, a state representative, come from Lexington, but they have conflicting political loyalties in the Republican gubernatorial primary as Knotts is backing Haley rival Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

The South Carolina GOP called on Knotts to "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," Politico's Ben Smith reports. Knots ultimately put out a statement doing so -- kind of. 

"My 'raghead' comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest," he said. "Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It's like local political version of 'Saturday Night Live.'

He added: "Since my intended humorous context was lost in translation, I apologize. I still believe Ms. Haley is pretending to be someone she is not, much as Obama did, but I apologize to both for an unintended slur."

Haley spokesman Tim Pearson called Knotts "all that is wrong with South Carolina politics."

"He's an embarrassment to our state and to the Republican Party," he said. "South Carolina is so much better than this, and the people of our state will make that quite clear [in the primary] next Tuesday."

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