Apology follows inflammatory comment in S.C. race

By Philip Rucker
Saturday, June 5, 2010; A04

The brawl for South Carolina's Republican gubernatorial nomination just got nastier.

A GOP state senator called front-runner Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race and a daughter of Indian immigrants, a "raghead" on a political talk show Thursday night.

"We already got one raghead in the White House," John M. "Jake" Knotts Jr. said on the Internet talk show "Pub Politics," according to the State newspaper. "We don't need another in the governor's mansion."

Knotts, a supporter of one of Haley's opponents, later apologized and said his comment was made in jest.

After former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) visited the Palmetto State to endorse Haley a few weeks ago, the state lawmaker rocketed in the polls to a sizable lead in the four-candidate race. Since then, her opponents and their allies have attacked her character relentlessly. Voters will go to the polls Tuesday.

Two Republican operatives have said they had sexual encounters with Haley. She has denied both accusations and said she has been faithful to her husband.

Responding to Knotts's comments after a Thursday campaign stop, Haley told the State: "What the race in 2010 will prove is the goodness of the people of South Carolina, that there [are] fewer people of the Jake Knotts [ilk] and that there are a lot more good, educated people [who] want their voice heard in government."

In a statement to local reporters, Knotts said: "Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It's like a 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."

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