President Donald Trump on Monday referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during an event honoring Native American code talkers, a comment the senator slammed as a “racial slur.”
Trump invited the Navajo veterans to the Oval Office to honor their service in World War II, during which they used undecipherable code to pass communications for the military.
During the event, Trump revived criticism of Warren, whom he has accused of falsely touting her Native American heritage to advance her career.
“We have a representative in Congress who has been here for a long time … longer than you. They call her Pocahontas,” Trump said Monday.
The Massachusetts Democrat responded in an interview on MSNBC, in which she said it was “deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied that the use of the name was a slur. She said Warren’s comments were “a ridiculous response.”
“I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders said.
The Boston Herald reported in 2012 that Warren marked herself as a minority in law school directories in the 1980s and mentioned her ancestry while campaigning. Warren said her family shared stories of Native American ancestors, but had no documentation proving her lineage from Cherokee or Delaware Indian tribes.
J.R. Norwood, general-secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, disagreed with Sanders’ assessment that the name Pocahontas is not a racial slur.
“When honorably referencing the actual historic figure, this indeed is true. However, the name becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult. American Indian names, whether they be historic or contemporary, are not meant to be used as insults. To do so is to reduce them to racial slurs,” he said.