Republican senator accused of racism after mocking Kamala Harris’ name at Donald Trump rally

President won Georgia in 2016 but now a battleground state

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 17 October 2020 11:52
Republican senator accused of racism after mocking Kamala Harris name at Donald Trump rally.mp4
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A Republican senator has been accused of racism after mocking the name of Kamala Harris, as he introduced Donald Trump at a campaign rally.

David Perdue, a senator from Georgia and the brother of the secretary of agriculture, appeared to intentionally stumble as he said the Democrat’s first name as he warmed up the president’s crowd in the city of Macon.

Claiming that Mr Trump’s challengers, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, would bring “radical socialism” to the nation if they win in November, he then mispronounced “Kamala”.

“Kamala? Kamala? Kamala-mala-mala,” he said, as the crowd laughed. “I don’t know. Whatever.”

Mr Perdue is not the first conservative to have made fun of the pronunciation of Ms Harris’s name. Fox News host host Tucker Carlson has also repeatedly mocked her saying that her name is pronounced “comma-la”.

But he also has no reason not to know how to pronounce it, given they both serve in the Senate, and sit on its budget committee.

Mr Perdue’s Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff was among those to seize on the Republican’s behaviour.

“My opponent, GOP Sen David Perdue of anti-Semitic attack ad infamy, just mocked Sen Harris' name as "Kamala-mala-mala-whatever" at a Trump rally,” he tweeted. “We are so much better than this.”

He later told MSNBC: “This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what president Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members of the Senate.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said he owed voters an apology.

“Senator Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of senator Harris' name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from president Trump’s handbook,” she said.

Mr Perdue’s spokesperson, John Burke, denied he was race-baiting.

“Senator Perdue simply mispronounced senator Harris' name, and he didn't mean anything by it,” he tweeted.

“He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda that she and her endorsed candidate Jon Ossoff are pushing, which includes the Green New Deal.”

Mr Trump has also made fun of the pronunciation of the first name of Ms Harris, whose mother was from India. He has also similarly mockingly mispronounced the name of congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and did so again on Friday night.

Mr Trump’s appearance in Macon – noisy, bombastic and filled with insults aimed at Democrats – was his third campaign stop of the day, having spoken at two events earlier in Florida.

While Mr Trump won Georgia in 2016 by around five points, his presence there on Friday underscored how the once solidly red state has become purple. An average of polls collated by RealClearPolitics gives Mr Biden a one-point lead, statistically a tie.

It also suggests Mr Ossoff and Mr Purdue, a one-time CEO of Dollar General, are effectively tied.

When he appeared on Friday, Mr Trump insisted he would win Georgia again. The last Republican candidate not to do so was George HW Bush in 1992.

"We won Macon Georgia. We're going to win it again,” he said. “We're running against perhaps the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics.”

He accused Mr Biden and his son Hunter of criminal behaviour, urging voters to read a controversial and unproven story in the right wing New York Post, which claimed it had a “smoking-gun email" about an alleged meeting in 2015 between Joe Biden and an executive from Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board.

Several media outlets have reported the FBI is now investigating whether the Post story is part of a Russian misinformation campaign.

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