Fact check: Nikki Haley didn't 'white-wash' her name. It's Punjabi

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The claim: Nikki Haley changed her name

Claims that former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley changed her name have resurfaced across social media after she tweeted about racial division in the United States.

The Facebook post, shared on May 2, is an image of a controversial tweet by Haley where she voiced her objection to The New York Times' 1619 project and "wokeism."

("Wokeism" refers to being well informed or "alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which added "woke" in 2017.)

The reply shown on the post is from a parody account, which accused Haley of "white-washing" her name to "get ahead in 'non-racist' America."

"You thought Nikki would give you a better chance than the name Nimrata Randhawa," the reply says.

Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa. She has received criticism about not using her first name since as early as 2016, with people claiming she changed her name to "get ahead" in politics.

By May 5, the post by Occupy Democrats, an advocacy group created to provide "an online counterbalance to the Republican 'Tea Party,'" had been shared 8,400 times.

Fact check: Kamala Harris’ children’s book is not in ‘welcome packs’ for migrants

USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.

But Haley hasn't legally changed her name. She goes by her middle name: Nikki.

Haley has gone by her middle name sincebirth, before politics

The post claims Haley "white-washed" her name, going from Nimarata to Nikki, to boost her political career. But "Nikki" is Haley's legal middle name as it appears on her birth certificate, according to her 2018 tweet.

Some users replied to Haley's controversial tweet saying that using her "real name" would end her political career, and that "Nikki" is more widely accepted than "Nimarata" because it doesn't sound foreign.

Fact check: Post falsely claims to show neighbors standing by as FBI raided Rudy Giuliani

But Haley's use of her middle name as a first name predates her political career.

Haley has gone by "Nikki" ever since she was born, Haley spokesperson Chaney Denton told USA TODAY.

A 2010 Roll Call article echoed this, noting she was known as Nikki throughout high school even though her yearbook photo listed her full name: "Nimarata Nikki Randhawa."

ORG XMIT: SCCOL101 Nikki Haley waves with her family in Columbia, S.C. during an election night gathering on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Haley brushed aside unproven accusations of extramarital affairs to win a spot in a runoff Tuesday for the GOP nomination for governor, nearly winning the nomination outright in a bid to become the first woman to hold the office. (AP Photo/Rich Glickstein/The State)
ORG XMIT: SCCOL101 Nikki Haley waves with her family in Columbia, S.C. during an election night gathering on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Haley brushed aside unproven accusations of extramarital affairs to win a spot in a runoff Tuesday for the GOP nomination for governor, nearly winning the nomination outright in a bid to become the first woman to hold the office. (AP Photo/Rich Glickstein/The State)

While it's a common nickname for women named "Nichole" in the United States, "Nikki" is also a common Punjabi name, the region in India her parents migrated from.

In a tweet responding to implications she white-washed her name from activist Bree Newsome, Haley said "Nikki" means "little one" in Punjabi.

"Nikki" is often used "as a term of endearment for the youngest girl in a Sikh family," according to British-Indian writer Tunku Varadarajan, who wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal in 2020 about Haley's name controversy. Haley is the youngest girl in her family.

Fact check: Winning Kentucky Derby jockey didn’t turn down White House invite

As her name hasn't been altered, Haley didn't white-wash or change her name; she simply goes by her middle name.

Haley adopted husband's last name

Haley's last name has also been controversial. But the explanation for the change is far from unusual.

She got married.

Haley adopted her husband's last name, Michael Haley, when they wed in 1996, becoming Nikki Haley at age 26 -- 6 years before she entered the political arena.

While more women have chosen to keep their maiden names once they marry, around 70% of women choose to adopt their husband's name, a study by The New York Times found in 2015.

Our rating: False

We rate claims that Haley white-washed her name FALSE, based on our research. Haley has gone by "Nikki," her legal middle name, since birth, which means she started using it before she started her political career at 32. Since it's also a common Indian name, claims that she anglicized, or white-washed, her name are inaccurate.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Haley didn't 'white-wash' her name. 'Nikki' is Punjabi

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting