Most people who are even remotely familiar with South Carolina politics remember Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts’ legendary “raghead” comment — a hit on both President Barack Obama and then-state Rep. Nikki Haley during the 2010 gubernatorial race. If you somehow missed it during the past two years, here’s the video. Go ahead and watch it, we’ll wait.
A self-styled “redneck” and 18-year State House veteran from Lexington County, Knotts’ Boss Hogg-like demeanor and uncensored commentary has produced a number of quips which might seem like satire to those uninitiated in the rough-and-tumble nature of South Carolina politics.
This week, for example, WIS-TV’s Jody Barr uncovered evidence of an illegal video poker operation in Knotts’ district. What’s more, WIS found that companies associated with the video poker ring had given over $7,000 to Knotts’ campaign fund.
The gambling ring’s organizer is heard talking about his political connections on a secret audio recording obtained by WIS. “All them sons-of-b*tches that stay pretty and clean up there, the only reason they stay pretty and clean is because I do their dirty work for their a**es,” he says. “I got to do it and the rest of them, they scared.”
When confronted by the media about dirty campaign money, most politicians might immediately offer to return any questionable contributions. Knotts, on the other hand, writes his own PR playbook. “I can make the devil’s money do God’s will,” he said, leaving it at that.
If former LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu was the Honey Badger of football, Jakie Knotts is undoubtedly the Honey Badger of politics — he just doesn’t give a sh*t. “Ole Knocky, he’ll get it done, Bubba,” Knotts told the Free Times’ Corey Hutchins last year, referring to his nickname back when he was a Columbia beat cop.
Knotts certainly brought that “Ole Knocky” attitude to the State House, where he laughs off attempts by political enemies to bring him down through opposition research. “You don’t investigate an investigator,” Knotts once said in reference to a legislative ‘hit list’ being targeted by former Gov. Mark Sanford. As it turned out, Knotts became one of the central figures in Sanford’s own downfall the next year when he tipped off Columbia reporters about the governor’s disappearance to Argentina.
This year, Knotts tried to eliminate his opposition in the Republican primary though a lawsuit that got over 200 candidates kicked off the ballot before voters ever went to the polls. When lawmakers tried to find a solution to the ballot crisis the lawsuit caused, Knotts unashamedly worked to kill the measure in the Senate. “Now I’m in the catbird seat!” Knotts told lawmakers just before he succeeded at killing the legislative solution.
And then, of course, there’s this choice anecdote from Hutchins’ 2011 profile of Knotts:
As trying as it can often be, Knotts says you can’t take the fun out of campaigning. He calls himself “The fire ant king.”
When he found out sneaky operatives were driving around his district stealing his yard signs, he got himself a bottle of honey and squirted it onto some of his signs.
“You’ll have you a fire ant mound in about a half-hour,” he says.
It wasn’t long before someone at the hardware store on Platt Springs Road let him know when a couple guys came in swatting at their legs and looking for some high-grade bug killer to rid their car of fire ants.
Ole Knocky, the fire ant king. He’ll get it done, Bubba.