The White House has defending President Donald Trump referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during a meeting with Native Americans, saying he meant no offense while accusing Ms Warren of lying about her career.
Already fond of branding his political opponents with nicknames, the President has taken to calling Ms Warren “Pocahontas” for referencing what she calls her slight Native American ancestry — a claim that her political adversaries have repeatedly derided.
During an event honoring Navajo code-talkers, who worked with the American military during World War II, Mr Trump again used the word in an apparent reference to Ms Warren.
“You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago,” Mr Trump told attendees. “They call her ‘Pocahontas.’”
Mr Trump has set off a backlash in the past for what detractors call a racial slur, and his administration immediately faced questions about the appropriateness of invoking a well-known Native American figure to demean an opponent at an event meant to memorialize Native American achievement.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the term was not a racial slur and that it was “ridiculous” to label it as such.
Using a racial slur “was certainly not the President's intent,” Ms Sanders told reporters.Asked why the President felt “the need to say something that is offense to many people while honoring” Native Americans, Ms Sanders deflected blame to Ms Warren.
“I think what most people find offensive is Sen Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Ms Sanders said.
Ms Warren has invoked family lore in saying she has a small amount of Cherokee and Delaware heritage and maintains she never used that ancestry for personal gain. In an interview with MSNBC following the President's remarks, Ms Warren said it was “deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honouring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies