President Donald Trump honored a group of Native American code talkers Monday with a somber speech referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and his White House chief of staff, John Kelly, as “the chief.”
Trump routinely invokes the Powhatan’s name in reference to Warren, one of the most prominent Democratic senators in Washington, who once made a dubious claim that she has Native American heritage.
“You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said, addressing the group of Native American veterans who served in World War II as he set up his latest joke at Warren’s expense.
He continued with the punchline: “Although, we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago: They call her Pocahontas.”
The code talkers did not appear to smile or laugh.
It wasn’t the only controversial remark Trump made to the veterans during the event — he also referred to John Kelly as “the chief.”
“I have to say, I said to General Kelly,” Trump began, “I said, ‘General, how good’ — here he is, right there, the chief; he’s the general and the chief — I said, ‘How good were these code talkers?’”
Warren responded with a sharp rebuke shortly after the president’s remarks.
“It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur,” Warren said.
The statement probably won’t mean much to Trump, who continues to brush off criticisms from legislators, activists, and reporters — sometimes in real time. During one televised campaign stop in May, Trump invoked the name, prompting one reporter to shout, “That’s very offensive!”
He used it again seconds later.