FACT CHECK: Image Implies Nikki Haley Changed Name Due To Racism

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley changed her name due to racism.

Verdict: False

“Nikki” is a Punjabi name meaning “little one” and is Haley’s middle name. Her last name changed due to her marriage.

Fact Check:

Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, declared her candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination Feb. 14, according to The Associated Press. Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa, is the daughter of Indian immigrants and the first prominent woman of color to seek the party’s nomination, ABC News reported.

Since she announced her bid, commentators on social media have accused Haley of changing her name due to whitewashing or to get ahead in politics. For example, Bishop Talbert Swan accused Haley of wanting to “erase [her] own” history, while Jaime O’Grady claimed Haley “refuses to use her actual first name, “Nimrata,” because it’s too brown-person-sounding.”

The Facebook image reads, “Nikki Haley changes her name from Nimrata Randhawa because racism doesn’t exist in the GOP.”

These claims are false. Haley did not change her name because of racism. Nikki is a Punjabi name that means “little one” and is Haley’s middle name, according to USA Today. She has been going by Nikki since childhood, with a 1984 article describing her as Nikki Randhawa, PolitiFact reported.

“‘Nikki’ is a Punjabi word that means ‘little one,’ often used as a term of endearment for the youngest girl in a Sikh family,” Tunku Varadarajan, a British-Indian writer, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2020.

Her last name changed following her marriage in 1996 to her husband, Michael Haley. She did not enter politics until 2004, when she became a South Carolina state legislator, according to Britannica.

Haley addressed claims she changed her name in a 2021 tweet. (RELATED: Did Nikki Haley Threaten To Cut Off Aid To Palestinian Refugees?)

“Thank you for the question. Nikki is a Punjabi word that means little one. It’s my middle name on my birth certificate,” Haley tweeted.

She also addressed it in 2018, tweeting, “Nikki is my name on my birth certificate. I married a Haley. I was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa and married Michael Haley.”

Claims regarding political events have circulated widely on social media during the month of February. Check your Fact recently debunked a claim suggesting Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy revealed evidence implicating Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
Follow Elias on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].