Politics

Video Exclusive: “Raghead” Attack On Nikki Haley

“We got a raghead in Washington. We don’t need a raghead in the state house,” State Senator Jake Knotts said in this legendary, previously unseen 2010 video. The backlash against his comments helped elect Governor Nikki Haley.

BuzzFeed has obtained the video of a legendary South Carolina political tirade, in which a State Senator’s ugly slurs against then-candidate Nikki Haley spurred a backlash that helped elect her governor.

State Senator Jake Knotts, a florid former police detective from Lexington, appeared on the Columbia online political show Pub Politics on Thursday, June 3, 2010 where he was quoted saying: “We already got one raghead in the White House. We don’t need another in the Governor’s Mansion.”

But the show’s producer, Wesley Donehue, has never made public the archived video of the episode. And the full video reveals a longer rant against Haley’s parents, who are Sikh immigrants from India, as well as Haley, who converted to Methodist Christianity as an adult.

Voters will find out “in the next three days,” Knotts warned, “that her daddy wears a turban around Lexington and her mommy has a ruby between her head and she is a Sheikh (sic) and trying to be a Methodist, and it gets to Greenville, around the Bob Jones University people, they’re not going to like that.”

“We got a raghead in Washington. We don’t need a raghead in the state house,” Knotts said.

His remarks, and other allegations of infidelity against Haley, helped spur a backlash against the “old boys” network she denounced and to propel her to an unexpected Republican primary victory on a wave of sympathy and of hope for a modernized South Carolina.

Knotts, who at times appeared to be speaking as an analyst of other South Carolinians sentiments but not necessarily his own, grudgingly apologized later that evening.

“My ‘raghead’ comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest,” Knotts said in a statement. “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.’

“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.”

Knotts words drew him a censure from his party and a primary challenge, which he weathered. He is now in hot water, however, for challenging a former party official to a duel.

BuzzFeed obtained the video in an email from an unfamiliar, and anonymous, account. Donehue told BuzzFeed that he was not the source, and does not have a copy of the video with the Ustream advertising that was on BuzzFeed’s original copy. [UPDATE: The sourcing has been clarified.]

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