Trump calls Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" during tribute to Navajo WWII veterans

The president can't resist dragging politics into a solemn award ceremony, and slamming Elizabeth Warren

Published November 27, 2017 3:41PM (EST)

President Donald Trump speaks during a White House ceremony honoring Navajo tribe members who served the U.S. military during World War II. (White House)
President Donald Trump speaks during a White House ceremony honoring Navajo tribe members who served the U.S. military during World War II. (White House)

At a White House ceremony honoring Navajo tribe members who used their native language to help the United States during World War II, President Donald Trump couldn't resist taking a potshot at Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"You were here long before any of us were here," Trump said, as the wizened veterans stood before him. "Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas."

The men seemed not to get Trump's reference to allegations from Republicans that Warren had claimed to be of Native American descent to qualify for affirmative action policies. His quip did not elicit a response, according to footage of the event.

Warren is among several Democratic politicians who have been discussed as possible challengers to Trump during the 2020 presidential campaign. Politico reported in September that Warren was at the top of a list being kept by political aides working for Trump.

The president has repeatedly referred to Warren as "Pocahontas" during his short political career. Trump's supporters have thrilled to the attack, releasing a number of YouTube compilation videos glorying in his insults.

The "Pocahontas" mockery is reminiscent of the race-based attacks against former president Barack Obama over his birthplace that Trump used to build support for himself among hardcore Republican voters. The White House defended Trump's comments during Monday's press briefing.

"I think that's a ridiculous response," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said when she was asked about concerns that Trump's insult to Warren was racially derogatory.

"I think that Senator Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career," she added. "I don't understand why no one's asking about that question and why that isn't constantly covered."

There is no known evidence that Warren received professional advantage for claiming to be of partial Native American descent. Her former colleagues at Harvard University's law school have denied that she was hired under minority recruitment policies

After Trump's statement, Warren responded with a blistering rebuke on cable TV.

"It is 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," Warren told NBC News. "Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he's going to shut me up with it. It hadn't worked in the past. It is not going to work in the future."

In August, she was prominently featured in an ad released by Trump's campaign organization which blasted "Democrats" and "career politicians."

Also in June, a Massachusetts-based political action committee funded by Trump's top donor, Robert Mercer, began running radio advertisements against Warren, calling her a "hypocrite professor" whose wealth belied her commitment to populist economic policies.

By Matthew Sheffield

Matthew Sheffield is a national correspondent for The Young Turks. He is also the host of the podcast "Theory of Change." You can follow him on Twitter.

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2020 Presidential Campaign Barack Obama Birther Movement Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren