Friday night at a President Donald Trump rally in Macon, Georgia, Republican Senator David Perdue mocked the Democratic Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris by intentionally mispronouncing her first name.
Perdue referred to Harris as “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.” The audience laughed.
A spokesperson for Perdue said the first-term senator “didn’t mean anything by it.”
Harris’ political opponents have repeatedly mispronounced her name since she became the first Black woman on a major party ticket, a trend many Democrats say smacks of racism. Her first name is pronounced “KAH’-mah-lah” — or, as she explains in her biography, “‘comma-la,’ like the punctuation mark.”
Harris’ spokesperson, Sabrina Singh, responded to Perdue’s remark in a tweet: “Well that is incredibly racist. Vote him out.” In a second tweet, she wrote, “He has been her Senate colleague for over 3 years. 3. Years. THREE. Do better.”
Casey Black, a spokesperson for Perdue’s campaign, tweeted that the senator “simply mispronounced Sen. Harris’ name.”
Currently, the RealClearPolitics average of recent polling data has suggested Perdue is locked in a dead heat battle against Democratic opponent and investigative journalist Jon Ossoff. The latest Quinnipiac poll has the race at Ossoff with 51% and Perdue with 45%.
In a tweet, Jon Ossoff responded, “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. We are so much better than this.”
“Senator Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris’s name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump’s handbook,” Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, said in a statement. “He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display.”
Earlier in the day, Ossoff announced he’d raised $21.3 million in the past quarter, the largest quarterly haul for any Senate candidate in the state’s history.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.