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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 6, 2021

Nikki Haley didn't 'white-wash' her name. She's gone by her middle name her whole life

If Your Time is short

  • Nikki Haley goes by her middle name, a Punjabi term of endearment for the youngest girl in a family. 
  • She has gone by that name since birth, and a newspaper article from when she was 12 calls her "Nikki Randhawa," her maiden name.

A screenshot of a Twitter reply to Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, accuses her of hiding her heritage in a post that’s spreading widely on social media.  

On April 30, Haley tweeted that "Democrats want to teach white kids that they’re racist and minority kids that the deck is stacked against them. Wokeism and 1619 are causing more division." 

"You literally white-washed your name to get ahead in ‘non-racist’ America," an account called @GOP_Ethics replied. "You thought Nikki would give you a better chance than the name Nimrata Randhawa."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, and she has gone by her middle name since she was born, according to her office. She changed her last name to Haley after marrying Michael Haley in 1996.

As more people responded to her April 30 tweet, including the question, "why did you change your name?," Haley tweeted: "Nikki is a Punjabi word that means little one. It’s my middle name on my birth certificate."

There’s other evidence that "Nikki" is not a new, anglicized name. 

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In 2020, journalist Tunku Varadarajan wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that Nikki is a Punjabi word "often used as a term of endearment for the youngest girl in a Sikh family." A boy would be called "Nikku," he said.

In 2018, Haley tweeted: "Nikki is my name on my birth certificate." 

In her 2012 memoir, she recounted political attacks on her name and wrote: "‘Nimrata’ is my given name, but I have spent my whole life as Nikki. Some have accused me of creating the name ‘Nikki’ to sound American, but on my birth certificate it says ‘Nimrata Nikki Randhawa."

In 2010, the New York Times reported that Haley was "always called Nikki, which means ‘little one,’ by her family."

Haley’s 1989 high school yearbook identifies her as "Nimarata Nikki Randhawa." (The spelling of Haley’s first name has sometimes appeared as "Nimarata.")

And a 1984 news article from a local newspaper in South Carolina, where Haley grew up, reported that "Nikki Randhawa" would be playing the role of "Scarlet" in a community theater production of "L’il Abner."

We rate the claim that Haley "white-washed" her name to get ahead Pants on Fire!

CORRECTION, May 14, 2021: Nikki Haley was identified as Nimarata Nikki Randhawa in her high school yearbook. An earlier version of this post inaccurately cited her married name in that sentence.

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Nikki Haley didn't 'white-wash' her name. She's gone by her middle name her whole life

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