Update (October 19, 2020): Georgia Senate Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that his campaign managed to raise $1.8 million from 42,000 donors after his opponent, Republican Senator David Perdue, criticized Senator Kamala Harris’ name during a rally with President Donald Trump on Friday.
Perdue sparked widespread outrage over the weekend when he said “Kamala? Kamala? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.”
He went on to make fun of the vice presidential candidate’s name further, even though he has worked closely with Harris in the Senate for three years.
The racist barb sparked the #MyNameIs hashtag, which was trending on Twitter on Saturday and Sunday. Many people, particularly those with Indian names like Harris, spoke out about the ridicule and outward hatred they faced repeatedly over their names.
“Pramila. It comes from the Sanskrit word 'prem' which means love. The name is constantly mispronounced as is my last name. I only mind that when it is done willfully and continuously. Let’s build an inclusive America,” congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said.
“#MyNameIs Ilham, I prefer Ilhan. I never liked the M sound. It means 'Inspiration' in Arabic. My father named me Ilham and inspired me to lead a life of service to others. In his honor I am voting for an inspirational ticket over desperate and maddening one,” congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter.
Perdue did not apologize, only saying that the racist line was unintentional. On Saturday, he said he meant it with “absolutely no disrespect,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
His statement did little to stop the avalanche of criticism from some of his own constituents, who questioned how he could disrespect anyone for their name, much less a sitting U.S. senator and potential vice president.
Despite Perdue attempting to clarify his remarks, immigrants, naturalized citizens and first-generation Americans have slammed the senator for disrespecting a significant portion of the country’s population.
“Need I say, when you insult someone’s identity, you risk alienating many others?” Georgia resident Kumar Krishnan told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Other Georgia voters who spoke to the newspaper echoed those remarks, adding that it reinforced the perception that Republicans are “against immigrants” and are trying to “play on people’s emotions in a very ill-intended way.”
Doug Emhoff, Harris’ husband, did not hold back his criticism of Perdue during a campaign stop in Marietta, Georgia.
“Let me help what’s-his-face pronounce this: M-V-P. If he can’t remember her name, how about Madam Vice President?” Emhoff told the crowd.
Original (October 17, 2020): A Georgia Republican is facing backlash after displaying childlike behavior during a rally on Friday. Following in the footsteps of President Donald Trump, who has been known to ridicule women and other minority groups, Sen. David Perdue mocked the name of Sen. Kamala Harris.
"Ka-MAL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I don't know, whatever," Perdue said at the Trump rally in Georgia.
The conservative enjoyed his 15 seconds of fame as the crowd joined in laughter. But other elected officials in Georgia quickly distanced themselves from the Republican after the video went viral.
Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is engaged in a reelection battle against Perdue, went to Twitter to condemn the mockery.
"Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague. Or a white colleague. And everyone knows it," Ossoff said.
Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague.
Or a white colleague.
— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) October 17, 2020
Ossoff also spoke with multiple media outlets to further distinguish himself from his opponent.
"This is what President Trump has done to Republicans in the senate," the Democrat told CNN. "This is performative bigotry. My opponent, Senator Perdue, he doesn't want to talk about how tens of thousands of Americans have died due to the gross negligence of the Trump Administration and Republicans in the senate during this pandemic."
Instead, Perdue stole the spotlight with behavior which has been widely viewed as racist and foolish.
"It's bigoted, it's wrong and it's pathetic," Ossoff said. "He needs to apologize. Not just to Sen. Harris, also to the Indian-American community in Georgia and across the country."
Born to an Indian mother, Harris’ name is a reflection of her roots. According to Tunku Varadarajan, executive editor at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the senator's name represents Lakshmi, a Hindu deity of wealth and fortune. Kamala translates to “she of the lotus,” referring to Lakshmi resting on a flower in the heavens, Varadarajan wrote in an article for the Wall Street Journal.
Ossoff continued to defend Kamala's name when he spoke to MSNBC.
"This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members of the Senate," he said. "To show such disrespect for the Indian community here in Georgia, for Black women, to show that kind of open bigotry — but this is who Sen. David Perdue, my opponent, has revealed himself to be during this campaign."
— Team Ossoff HQ (@TeamOssoff) October 17, 2020
Pointing to another example of his opponent’s character, Ossoff referenced an insensitive Facebook ad from Perdue.
“This the same guy who was running anti-Semitic attack ads on Facebook against me that lengthened my nose," the Democrat said.
Ossoff reiterated his sentiments when he continued to defend Kamala on Twitter.
"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," he said. "We are so much better than this."
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. pic.twitter.com/9AvoQK4RdN
— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) October 16, 2020
Sabrina Singh, Harris' press secretary, also condemned the politician’s behavior.
"Well that is incredibly racist," she said on Twitter. "Vote him out and vote for Ossoff."
Well that is incredibly racist.
— Sabrina Singh (@sabrinasingh24) October 16, 2020
Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams has demanded an apology from Perdue.
"Senator Perdue's intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Sen. Harris's name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump's handbook. He owes Georgians an apology for his offensive display," Williams said, according to CNN.
Instead of an apology, a spokeswoman for Perdue's campaign defended the bigotry.
"Senator Perdue simply mispronounced Senator Harris' name, and he didn't mean anything by it," Casey Black said in a statement to CNN. "He was making an argument against the radical socialist agenda that she and her endorsed candidate Jon Ossoff are pushing."
Perdue is the latest Republican to mispronounce the senator's name. Trump failed to say her name correctly twice during a news conference when Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, CNN reported.
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson failed to see the problem after mispronouncing Harris' name.
"So I'm disrespecting her by mispronouncing her name unintentionally?" he said. "So it begins, you're not allowed to criticize Kuh-MAH-la Harris, or CA-muh-la, or whatever."