Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, slammed President Trump’s most recent instance of mockingly referring to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” This isn’t the first time Trump has used Pocahontas’ name as an insult toward Warren — he did so repeatedly during his presidential campaign — but on Monday, he hit a new low when he chose to deride the senator during a ceremony honoring Navajo veterans at the White House.
“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said to a group of veterans. “Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
Regardless of Warren’s ancestry, Trump using a ceremony meant to honor Native American veterans as an opportunity to insult one of his detractors was disrespectful, and it’s been widely criticized as such.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye: Trump's "Pocahontas" remark "unnecessary and culturally insensitive" https://t.co/qv4zEElHp7
— New Day (@NewDay) November 28, 2017
During an interview on CNN’s New Day, Begaye deemed Trump’s jab at Warren as something that “belongs on the campaign trail,” not during a ceremony honoring war heroes. While he praised the White House’s move to hold the event as a “good gesture,” he went considered Trump’s actions to be “uncalled for.”
When asked if he saw “Pocahontas” as an ethnic slur, Begaye said he did and highlighted that she was not a fictional character.
“Pocahontas is a real person, not something that’s just made up,” he said. “This is a young lady, a Native American woman that played a critical role in the life of this nation and to use that person in that way is unnecessary and is being culturally insensitive.”
Warren responded to the president’s comments with disbelief during an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. “There he was, at a ceremony to honor Native Americans, men who have really put it all on the line to save American lives, to save lives of people, our allies, during World War II, really amazing people. And President Trump couldn’t even make it through a ceremony to honor these men without throwing in a racial slur,” she said.