Nikki Haley hit by Time, Twitter (Lead)

April 10th, 2012 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 10 (IANS) After facing a “bizarre” and “insensitive” question about Sikh taxi drivers from a top editor, South Carolina’s Indian American Governor Nikki Haley has become the latest victim of a rumour spreading as “news” on Twitter.

“It took only two minutes,” the New York Times reported, as “an unfounded report on a little-known blog claiming that Gov. Nikki R. Haley was about to be indicted rocketed from South Carolina political circles into national circulation”.

“The item’s rapid journey from hearsay to mainstream journalism, largely via Twitter, forced Haley to rush to defend herself against a false rumour,” reported the influential US daily.

In retrospect, there were clear reasons to doubt the March 29 report, from a blog called the Palmetto Public Record, that Haley was facing indictment on tax fraud charges, Times said.

As the daily pointed out, the blog’s editor, Logan Smith, never asked the governor’s office for comment before he posted his report. Later, in an e-mail, Smith said he could not be sure whether his sources were correct.

And journalists from major news outlets, including The Washington Post, CBS News,The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed did not stop to check first before reposting Smith’s report on Twitter.

By the next morning, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The State in Columbia, had an article on its front page.

Haley’s office, which chalked the report up to a plant by a political opponent, later released a letter from the Internal Revenue Service declaring that there was no tax investigation.

Days later, Haley, who has lived with an unfounded blog report of marital infidelity since before she took office, faced a “bizarre” question from Time magazine editor Belinda Luscombe at the end of an interview.

“In New York City, which you’re visiting for a couple of days, a lot of our taxi drivers are Sikhs. If you get one, are you going to give him a slightly bigger tip?” she was asked.

Born Nimrata Randhawa to Sikh immigrant parents from India, Haley seemed unfazed as she responded with a laugh, “Oh, I give the same tip to everyone.”

Politico, a leading a political daily called it a bizarre question, and The Hill, which focuses on Congressional politics sounded off on the incident under the headline, “Haley forced to sit through joke about Sikhism.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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