Former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) officially announced her intention to run for president in 2024 on Tuesday, reviving a long-settled debate about the conservative’s heritage, as well as discussions about race relations in America.
In a video regarding the announcement, Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration for two years, cited her Indian background while discussing her childhood in Bamberg, South Carolina.
“The railroad tracks divided the town by race,” she said. “I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not Black, not white, I was different.”
But critics of Haley on the left say she has long sought to distance herself from her Indian heritage, citing their belief that she is willfully choosing to not go by her birth name Nimrata Nikki Randhawa.
A quote from Haley in 2020 in which she argued that America wasn’t a racist nation was also repeatedly mentioned, contrasted to her decision to go into Republican politics.
“Say your real name @NikkiHaley. Are you afraid the white folks you’re kowtowing to won’t vote for someone named Nimrata?” one Twitter user asked. “You not only want to erase the history of Black people to satisfy racists, you want to erase your own. You’re a disgrace.”
“America is not a racist country, which is why I had to anglicize my name from Nimrata Randhawa to Nikki Haley in order to have a career in Republican politics,” another user quipped.
Yet Haley isn’t receiving pushback only from the left. Right-wing users, particularly those in support of former President Donald Trump, also evoked her full name, although in a much more derogatory manner.
“If we’re going to ignore the constitution and let people who are not qualified to be POTUS (Nimrata ‘Nikki Haley’ Randhawa) run for that office why not allow a foreigner like Nigel Farage or Jair Bolsonaro run?” wrote one user on Gab, a right-wing social media site.
A number of other users there made racist, demeaning comments about Indian Americans while referring to Haley as Randhawa across the site.
Chris Menahan, author over at the right-wing blog Information Liberation, which was republished by InfoWars, also mentioned Haley’s birth name in the piece, headlined: “Nimrata “Nikki Haley” Randhawa Announces Presidential Run.”
Haley, though, has never changed her name to make it sound less Indian, as right and left-wingers online allege. She took her husband’s name when she married and has long gone by Nikki, since before she was in politics.
Haley herself addressed the claims in the tweet in 2018.
Regardless of the criticism, Haley currently trails in early polls against her Republican counterparts. GOP primary voters have placed Trump at the top spot with 47% support, while Haley remains in fourth place at just 3% behind former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).