Republican senator faces backlash after mocking colleague Kamala Harris’ name

Sen. David Perdue speaks in front of a crowd at a Trump rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Ga.
Sen. David Perdue speaks during a campaign rally for President Trump at a regional airport in Macon, Ga., on Friday.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Republican Sen. David Perdue mocked Kamala Harris , his Senate colleague and the Democratic vice presidential nominee, on Friday by repeatedly mispronouncing her name at a Georgia rally for President Trump.

Perdue was wrapping up his remarks at an event in Macon when he referred to Harris as “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.” The audience laughed.

Harris and Perdue have served together in the U.S. Senate since 2017, including as members of the Senate Budget Committee. His campaign spokesman John Burke said the Republican “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name and he didn’t mean anything by it.”


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.”

Harris’ political opponents, including Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have repeatedly mispronounced her name since she became the first Black woman on a major party ticket, a trend many 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.”

Perdue’s challenger, Jon Ossoff, swiftly criticized his Republican opponent on social media: “Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague. Or a white colleague. And everyone knows it.”

Nikema Williams, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Perdue owes voters an apology.

“Sen. Perdue’s intentionally disrespectful mispronunciation of Senator Harris’ name is a bigoted and racist tactic straight from President Trump’s handbook,” Williams said.

Long a staunch Trump loyalist, Perdue earlier told the crowd that the president had been sent by God.


“This guy is providential. He didn’t happen by accident,” Perdue said. “How in the world in our political system could Donald J. Trump come on the scene in 2016 do what he did? Tell me. God’s watching.”

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd-surfs without a mask during a campaign rally.
Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd-surfs during a campaign rally for President Trump at a regional airport in Macon, Ga.
(Associated Press)

The Trump campaign scheduled the rally in Macon as a series of recent polls show Trump and former Vice President Biden neck-and-neck in Georgia. Trump, who won the state by 5 percentage points in 2016, has little clear path to victory if he loses Georgia in November.

Along with Perdue, state GOP leaders including Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Rep. Doug Collins, former Georgia governor and current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and 14th district GOP nominee Marjorie Taylor Greene also attended the rally for Trump. And Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat who spoke at the Republican National Convention, crowd-surfed before Trump spoke.