SC state senator refers to candidate as 'raghead'

By Page Ivey
Associated Press Writer / June 4, 2010

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COLUMBIA, S.C.—A South Carolina lawmaker on Thursday called a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent a "raghead," saying we have one in the White House, we don't need one in the governor's mansion.

Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts later apologized for the slur, saying the remarks about President Barack Obama and state Rep. Nikki Haley were meant as a joke.

They came on Internet political talk show, Pub Politics. Co-host Phil Bailey said Knotts said, "We've already got a raghead in the White House, we don't need another raghead in the governor's mansion."

No audio was available because of a technical problem, Bailey said.

"If it had been recorded, the public would be able to hear firsthand that my 'raghead' comments about Obama and Haley were intended in jest," Knotts said in his statement. "Bear in mind that this is a freewheeling, anything-goes Internet radio show that is broadcast from a pub. It's like local political version of Saturday Night Live, which is actually where the joke came from."

He did not repeat his original comment in his apology. Knotts of Lexington is a supporter of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer's gubernatorial campaign.

Haley, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin and is a favorite of the tea party, also represents Lexington in the Statehouse and has faced other landmines in her attempt to become the state's first female governor. In the past two weeks, two men have come forward to say they had trysts with her, which she denies.

Her campaign manager Tim Pearson called Knotts "an embarrassment to our state and to the Republican Party."

"Jake Knotts represents all that is wrong with South Carolina politics," Pearson said in an e-mail.

Bailey, who also is director of the state Senate Democratic Caucus, said Knotts is known for speaking his mind, but he went too far.

"I was appalled by the comments," Bailey said.

Four Republicans and three Democrats are vying to replace term-limited Gov. Mark Sanford who rocked the state when he confessed last summer to an affair with an Argentine woman. It ruined his marriage and likely his political future, which included presidential aspirations.

Bailey said he hopes to have the full discussion posted on the show's website Friday.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Karen Floyd called on Knotts to apologize "so that we can put this unfortunate incident behind us."

"The South Carolina Republican Party strongly condemns any use of racial or religious slurs," Floyd said in an e-mail statement Thursday night. top stories on Twitter

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