Trump mocks Nikki Haley’s first name, his latest example of attacking rivals based on race

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, as Nimarata Nikki Randhawa

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Trump mocks Nikki Haley’s first name, his latest example of attacking rivals based on race

Atlanta: Donald Trump used his social media platform on Friday to mock Nikki Haley ‘s birth name, the latest example of the former president keying on race and ethnicity to attack people of colour, especially his political rivals.

In a post on his Truth Social account, Trump repeatedly referred to Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, as “Nimbra”.

Haley, the former South Carolina governor, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, as Nimarata Nikki Randhawa. She has always gone by her middle name “Nikki”. She took the surname “Haley” upon her marriage in 1996.

Trump, himself the son, grandson and twice the husband of immigrants, called Haley “Nimbra” three times in the post and said she “doesn’t have what it takes”.

The attack comes four days before the New Hampshire primary, in which Haley is trying to establish herself as the only viable Trump alternative in the Republicans’ 2024 nominating contest.

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Trump’s post was an escalation of recent attacks in which he referenced Haley’s given first name — though he’s misspelled it “Nimrada” — and falsely asserted she is ineligible for the presidency because her parents were not US citizens when she was born in 1972.

The attacks echo Trump’s “birther” rhetoric against President Barack Obama. Trump spent years pushing the conspiracy theory that the nation’s first Black president was born in Kenya and not a “natural born” US citizen as required by the Constitution. That effort was part of Trump’s rise among Republicans’ most culturally conservative base ahead of his 2016 election that surprised much of the US political establishment.

Haley has dismissed Trump’s latest attacks as proof that she threatens his bid for a third consecutive nomination.

“I’ll let people decide what he means by his attacks,” Haley told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday when asked about Trump’s false assertions that her heritage disqualifies her from the Oval Office. “What we know is, look, he’s clearly insecure if he goes and does these temper tantrums, if he’s spending millions of dollars on TV. He’s insecure, he knows that something’s wrong.” Trump’s campaign did not reply to an inquiry about his comments.

Since Monday’s Iowa caucuses — which Trump won by 30 points over Ron DeSantis, who placed second — Haley has aimed to portray the rest of the GOP primary battle as a two-way race between Trump and herself despite her narrow third-place finish. Haley’s campaign is aiming for a stronger showing in New Hampshire, hoping for a springboard into her home state South Carolina, which holds the South’s first presidential primary next month.

For his part, Trump bounces between declarations that the nominating fight is already effectively over and blasting Haley as if the two are indeed locked in a tight contest. Trump still criticises his other remaining rival, DeSantis, but his preferred pejoratives for the Florida governor, “Ron DeSanctimonious” or “Ron DeSanctus,” have nothing to do with race or ethnicity. DeSantis is white.

Trump’s focus on Haley’s name comes as far-right online forums have for months been littered with mentions of her given name alongside racist commentary and false “birther” claims. Haley’s name and family background also have become talking points on the left. Some widely circulating social media posts have called her a hypocrite for saying America was “never a racist country” when she likely experienced racism herself.

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