WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump sparked a controversy on Monday by jokingly referring to a Democratic senator as Pocahontas during a meeting at the White House with Navajo Indians who served their country in World War II.
Trump tends to call lawmaker Elizabeth Warren by the name of Pocahontas – a famous young native American of the 17th century – to make fun of the progressive senator’s claim to have indigenous roots, and did it again when receiving five Navajo veterans at the White House.
“You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said about these native Americans, who during World War II developed a code based on the Navajo language, in order to send encoded messages impossible for the enemy to understand even if they managed to intercept them.
“Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas,” the president added, with the Navajo “code talkers” by his side.
Sen. Warren responded without hesitation, saying in an interview on the MSNBC channel “it is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States can’t even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur.”
Asked about that criticism, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during her daily press conference that it “certainly was not the President’s intent” to us a “racial slur” in the company of native American veterans.
“I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders said, noting that Trump found “an extreme amount of value and respect” in the native Americans he received at the White House.
Warren, one of the leading figures of the Democratic Party, said in 2012 that she had native American roots, and that her family had handed down stories of those Indians for generations, though no documentation as been found to confirm that claim.
That and the fact the senator has identified herself as a native American in law school directories from the Association of American Law Schools has led some conservatives, including Trump, to accuse her of lying on that score to further her career, something she has always denied.