At a ceremony that was supposed to be about honoring American heroes, President Trump, in an aside, took a verbal swipe at Senator Elizabeth Warren. It was an ungracious act, not in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, but by itself not a major breach of etiquette. His choice of words in reference to her, however, was inappropriate to say the least:
During an Oval Office event honoring Native American code talkers for their service during World War II Monday, President Donald Trump made a quip about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, terming her ‘Pocahontas’ in an aside that received swift backlash shortly afterward.
“We have a representative in Congress who has been here for a long time … longer than you. They call her Pocahontas!” Trump said, referring to the Native American woman who married an English settler in Virginia in the early 1600s. Though Trump did not name Warren, D-Mass., Monday, he has previously used the nickname Pocahontas in reference to her.
During her first run for U.S. Senate in 2012, the Boston Herald reported that Warren registered as a minority in law school directories in the 1980s. Warren defended herself by claiming she was told of her Native American ancestry by family members and that the registry was made in order to meet persons with similar backgrounds, rather than to advance her career.
In an interview with MSNBC shortly after Trump made the remark Monday, Warren said that 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.”
“Fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey defended Warren via Twitter Monday afternoon, agreeing that what was said in the Oval Office was a ‘slur’ that disparaged ‘the Native American war heroes, standing right beside the president, who risked their lives to protect his right to make such a disgusting comment.'”
And the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, an association of American Indian nations, also took exception to Trump’s Pocahontas comment, “noting earlier denunciations by Native Americans when the president previously invoked the name Pocahontas in a way that denigrates others.”
“The name becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult,” reads part of the statement from Dr. J.R. Norwood, the ACET’s general secretary. “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.”