On Monday, President Donald Trump hosted three Navajo World War II veterans at the White House to honor them for their service to the United States. The contributions of Native Americans are often overlooked in the broad strokes with which we paint the World Wars and this day was meant to give Navajo Code Talkers — who were recruited by the Marines to serve in communications units — their due recognition. Unfortunately, the ceremony went awry when it became all about Donald Trump’s inability to respect other cultures.
As he was making his speech, DT went off-script — as he so often does.
“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” he said, “Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time … longer than you — they call her Pocahontas. But you know what, I like you. You are special people.”
Here’s the video: Trump calls Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ while honoring Native American code talkers: “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. They call her Pocahontas.” pic.twitter.com/hjZ5MInDDf
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 27, 2017
To add insult to injury, the entire ceremony took place in front of a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson who signed the American Indian Removal act in 1830 which allowed the federal government to remove Native Americans from their land and initiated the “Trail of Tears.” That’s just not okay.
The “Pocahontas” to which Trump was referring is U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren who has somewhat controversially claimed to have Native American roots (fact checking has found that she may be able to claim 1/32 Native heritage). Trump took to calling her Pocahontas as an insult during his presidential campaign — boy, does that guy love nicknaming people — and continues to use it to insult her.
This morning, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called the comment “unnecessary and culturally insensitive” and agreed that the context in which Donald Trump uses it makes it a racial slur.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye: Trump’s “Pocahontas” remark “unnecessary and culturally insensitive” https://t.co/qv4zEElHp7
— New Day (@NewDay) November 28, 2017
At Monday’s press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deflected questions about Trump’s comment by saying that what people find truly offensive is Sen. Warren’s claim to Native American heritage “to advance her career.” She added that calling “Pocahontas” a racial slur was “ridiculous.”
Sen. Warren spoke to MSNBC later in the day to react to the controversy. She said she found it “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.”
.@SenWarren: “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.” pic.twitter.com/eYEPjJITL3
— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) November 27, 2017
In related news, Eric Trump then made a misguided attempt to defend his father’s comments and squelch the idea that using the name Pocahontas in that context was a racial slur. He was then mercilessly dragged by Twitter for his efforts.
The irony of an ABC reporter (whose parent company Disney has profited nearly half a billion dollars on the movie “Pocahontas”) inferring that the name is “offensive” is truly staggering to me.
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) November 28, 2017
I feel like I just had a stroke https://t.co/ShMrszbvBi
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) November 28, 2017
This is the dumbest tweet I’ve read this week. You guys continue to kill your brand by opening your mouths. Best to convince dada to resign and MAYBE save your future business interests.
— D. L. Wolfe 🐺MD (@D_L_Wolfe) November 28, 2017
This is The Onion, right? It has to be.
— Steve Sando (@RanchoGordo) November 28, 2017
Dude, that was her name. The problem is not calling someone by their name it’s
1. Referring to a race by one person’s name
2. Using it as an insult.
As if I wanted to imply someone’s white & not smart & I just call them an Eric
(It’s actually worse than that, but jokes be jokes)
— jenesaiswha (@jenesaiswha) November 28, 2017
The Trump Large Adult Son version of sibling rivalry is that they’re always trying to compete to confuse us about which one is the dumbest. I was leaning Don Jr recently, but Eric’s making a strong push here. We should have leaderboards.
— Rob #SaveNetNeutrality Sheridan (@rob_sheridan) November 28, 2017
So another day, another sad and terrifying Trump story. Now, take a look at MSNBC actually honoring the Navajo Code Talkers like Trump was supposed to yesterday.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 28, 2017
Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Navajo Code Talkers, whose bravery, skill & tenacity helped secure our decisive victory over tyranny & oppression during WWII. Politicizing these genuine American heroes is an insult to their sacrifice.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) November 28, 2017