Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Friday drew the condemnation of his opponent after mispronouncing the first name of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the senator’s colleague of nearly four years.
“This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members in the Senate,” Democrat Jon Ossoff said in an interview with Joy Reid on MSNBC.
Speaking before President Trump arrived at a campaign rally in Macon, Ga., Perdue said, “Ka-ma-la, Ka-ma-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever,” seeming to pause for a smattering of laughs. His campaign wrote in a statement that Perdue “simply mispronounced Sen. Harris’s name, and he didn’t mean anything by it” — despite calls that the mix-up was purposeful.
The antic didn’t land with those that pointed to the comment as the latest in “race-baiting” from Perdue. Other Republicans, including Trump, have mispronounced Harris’s first name (pronounced “comma-la”), even as her supporters decry the tactic as racially insensitive to the first Black woman and first South Asian American woman to be on a national party ticket.
“Sen. David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside vice-presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017. He knows her name and he knows how to say it,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla wrote in a statement.
“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,” Kalla wrote, alluding to a previous Perdue ad that depicted Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff with a longer and thinner nose, which the Jewish candidate alleged played on anti-Semitic tropes. The July Facebook ad post was deleted by Perdue’s campaign but not until after it racked up thousands of views on Facebook.
Kalla wrote that Perdue should apologize for mispronouncing Harris’s name.
“Sen. Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Sen. Harris’s name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump’s handbook,” Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams said in a statement. “He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display.”
Ossoff seized on the clip Friday, sharing it with a link to his fundraising page.
“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,” Ossoff wrote. “We are so much better than this."
The increasingly competitive Senate race is considered a toss-up by Cook Political Report. Perdue has tried to highlight his Trump connection — and was one of several Republican Georgia lawmakers who spoke at Trump’s rally Friday night.