Social posts revive false claim about Haley’s name
CLAIM: Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley “changed” her name for political reasons.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The former United Nations ambassador has long used her legal middle name, Nikki. She was given the name Nimarata Nikki Randhawa at birth. Haley is her married name.
THE FACTS: Haley announced her run for president last week, making the former South Carolina governor the first major challenger to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.
In the days following her announcement, social media users amplified a long-circulating falsehood that Haley “changed” her name in order to appeal to Republican voters. “Nikki Haley changed her name from Nimrata Randhawa because racism doesn’t exist in the GOP,” reads one popular meme shared on Twitter and TikTok.
Other posts claimed that Nimarata Randhawa was her “real name,” suggesting Nikki Haley was not.
But while Haley’s legal first name is indeed Nimarata, sometimes spelled as Nimrata, her middle name is Nikki — a name that her family called her growing up and that means “little one” in Punjabi, as The Associated Press has reported.
Haley’s campaign told the AP in a statement: “Amb. Haley has gone by her middle name Nikki since she was born.”
Haley herself addressed claims about her name in a 2018 tweet, writing: “Nikki is my name on my birth certificate. I married a Haley. I was born Nimarata Nikki Randhawa and married Michael Haley.”
There are indeed records showing that Haley used her middle name long before she entered politics in 2004, when she was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.
The Times and Democrat, a local newspaper in South Carolina, reported in September 1984 that “Nikki Randhawa” would play a role in a local production of the musical “Li’l Abner.”
The newspaper again identified her using the same name nearly a decade later, in an October 1995 photo spread reporting on her family’s clothing business opening a new store.
Haley and her husband, W. Michael Haley, married the following year, in 1996.
In 2003, Haley was identified as “Nikki Randhawa-Haley” while serving on the board of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in South Carolina, an archived page shows.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.