David Perdue, a Republican Senator from the US state of Georgia, appeared to mock vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris at a rally for President Donald Trump in the battleground state on Friday, repeatedly mispronouncing Harris' name. This has lead to accusations of racism as Twitter users called the ploy out as 'cheap race-baiting'.
Video of his speech shows Perdue repeatedly making exaggerated attempts to pronounce the name before saying, "I don`t know, whatever." The crowd responds with laughter.
Harris, a U.S. senator from California, is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. Former Vice President Joe Biden named Harris as his running mate in August, making her the first Black woman and first Asian American to join a major party`s presidential ticket.
She has said her name should be pronounced "comma-la."
Perdue's remark has led to widespread criticism on social media and Democrats have also called on the Senator to apologize.
Taking to Twitter, Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running against Perdue in Georgia`s Senate race, said: "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."
Ossoff also said that Perdue would not have mocked a fellow senator who was male or white.
"Senator Perdue never would have done this to a male colleague. Or a white colleague. And everyone knows it," he said in a following tweet.
Also in a tweet, the Georgia Democrats said: "This is intentionally disrespectful and a bigoted racist tactic straight from the Trump playbook. Every Georgia Republican has to answer for this."
In a statement, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla said: "Senator David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017. He knows her name and he knows how to say it."
"He knows her name. There are only 100 of us," Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, said on Twitter on Saturday.
In a somewhat hilarious turn of events, Perdue Foods, one of America's largest chicken producers, distanced itself from the senator.
"I can assure you that David Perdue has no affiliation with the Perdue brand," the company said while responding to a tweet on the matter.
(With inputs from agencies)