South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian has been getting mounting flak for suggesting this past weekend that the state's Indian-American Republican governor Nikki Haley go "back to wherever the hell she came from."
Speaking at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner during his introduction of South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen last Friday, Harpootlian noted: "In about 18 months from now, hopefully he'll have sent Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from."
Some critics of the comments felt Harpootlian was taking a cheap shot at Haley's ethnic background. Haley was raised in South Carolina and attended college in the state but her parents were Sikh immigrants.
In a response to questions from Politico on his controversial language, Harpootlian said he was hoping Haley would go back to "Lexington County." When asked if he was alluding to Haley's ethnic background in his comments, Harpootlian said: "No, she was born in Bamberg [South Carolina] and lived in Lexington. Anybody implying anything different is attempting to feign insult."
A Haley spokesman, Rob Godfrey, noted in a statement, however, that Harpootlian's comments were playing "to the lowest common denominator."
"Fortunately, the people of South Carolina are better than Harpootlian and his ilk, and we have faith that they will see right through their consistent attempts to play to the lowest common denominator," stated Godfrey. "Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend coming out of the South Carolina Democratic Party."
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski condemned the comments on Monday, noting, "I don't care what he meant … you just don't do that."
"Let me just say, fair enough, that if Republicans did this, we'd be covering it like crazy – so we're covering it because it was wrong and those statements were absolutely wrong," she noted during her show. "That's a gaffe at best."
The controversial Harpootlian, who is a Columbia-based lawyer, is known for making charged comments. Last year at the Democratic National convention, he compared Haley to Adolph Hitler's mistress. Haley, he said, "was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun."
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Haley who professes Christianity was asked if she would tip Sikh taxi drivers more during a trip to New York City.
"In New York City, which you're visiting for a couple of days, a lot of our taxi drivers are Sikhs. If you get one, are you going to give them a slightly bigger tip?" Belinda Luscombe, a TIME editor, asked Haley.
"I give the same tip to everyone," said Haley.