The reelection campaign for Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is responding to criticism of what some have called a willfully racist move — claiming that the Georgia senator on Friday “didn’t mean anything by” what looked like a purposeful mispronunciation of the first name of the senator’s colleague of nearly four years, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
Perdue, who serves on the Senate Budget Committee with Harris, appeared to mock his Senate colleague’s name when ahead of Trump’s speech at a rally in Macon, Georgia, he referred to the vice presidential candidate as “Kamala, -mala, -mala, I don’t know, whatever,” to jeers of laughter from the crowd.
Here is the video of Senator David Perdue mangling the pronunciation of Kamala Harris’s name. pic.twitter.com/aVJU451bDi
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) October 16, 2020
The nominee’s press secretary, Sabrina Singh, swiftly condemned the move to mock Harris’ name calling it “incredibly racist” in a tweet on Friday.
But Perdue’s campaign has rebuffed complaints in a statement on Friday saying the lawmaker had “simply mispronounced Sen. Harris’s name, and he didn’t mean anything by it.”
Kamala is pronounced “‘comma-la,’ like the punctuation mark,” the California senator has previously said.
“He knows her name,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) chimed in on Saturday in a tweet rebuking Perdue’s butchered pronunciation of his colleague’s name. “There are only 100 of us. And he thinks he can get by with this.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla called the response from Perdue’s campaign a “trash cleanup that literally no one believes” in a Friday tweet, later noting that Perdue had served along Harris in the Senate since 2017.
“He knows her name and he knows how to say it,” Kalla said, adding: “His disgusting performance today is nothing more than a desperate dog whistle from a losing politician who was already caught running anti-Semitic ads against Jon Ossoff.”
Perdue previously came under fire for an anti-Semitic move — depicting Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff with a digitally altered nose in an ad that was later removed from Facebook by Perdue’s campaign. A campaign spokeswoman called the distorted image “accidental” in what has become a common excuse for race-baiting and anti-Semitic attacks.
Chair of Georgia’s Democratic Party, Nikema Williams went a step further when she suggested that Perdue owed voters in the state an apology for what she also contended was a deliberate mispronunciation of the Democratic vice presidential nominee’s name.
“Senator Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris’s name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump’s handbook. He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display,” said Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly mispronounced the vice presidential nominee’s name while conservative commentators following that lead have often claimed to do so by mistake.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson — who on his Friday show appeared to question the necessity of disavowing white supremacy — snapped at a guest when he was corrected for mispronouncing Harris’ name shortly after Biden revealed the California senator as his running mate claiming he had done so “unintentionally.”
“So it begins, you’re not allowed to criticize Kuh-MAH-la Harris, or CA-muh-la, or whatever,” Carson said in August. He has since repeatedly attacked the senator on the basis of her race and gender, as she takes the spotlight as the first Black and South Asian-American woman to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.