US Democrat leader under fire for insulting Nikki Haley
New York: South Carolina's Indian-American Republican Governor Nikki Haley was the target of a xenophobic comment by a rival Democrat leader at a party event.
"In about 18 months from now, hopefully he'll have sent Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from," South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian said while introducing the state's Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Friday, shortly before US Vice President Joe Biden took the stage.
The comment drew cheers and laughs from the audience in attendance, but Harpootlian is now facing harsh criticism, given Haley's Indian heritage.
His remarks implied that if Governor Haley loses the election she would go back to India, the place of her ancestors.
"Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend coming from the South Carolina Democratic Party," Governor Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey said in a statement.
"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," he said.
However, the embattled Democrat leader later clarified that he was referring to Lexington County when he said "wherever the hell she came from."
Before being elected governor in 2010, 41-year-old Haley lived in Lexington County in the suburban Columbia area and represented the area in the state house.
Her parents were Sikh immigrants to the US.
At last year's national Democratic convention, Harpootlian had compared Haley to Adolf Hitler's mistress, saying the governor "was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun."
He refused to apologise for that remark.