Donald Trump’s history with Native Americans has long been troubled. The Washington Post had a lengthy report last year documenting how the Republican has accused Indian reservations of being under the control of organized crime; he suggested dark-skinned Native Americans in Connecticut had faked their ancestry; and he “secretly paid for more than $1 million in ads that portrayed members of a tribe in Upstate New York as cocaine traffickers and career criminals.”
Today, the president found a new way to make that relationship vastly worse.
President Donald Trump revived his derogatory nickname for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren Monday, referring to her as “Pocahontas” during an event honoring Native American veterans at the White House.
Trump told the veterans “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.”
After making the crack, Trump turned to one of the Navajo code talkers and said, “But you know what? I like you….”
If you watch the clip, note the silence in the room after Trump made his quip targeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The senator appeared on MSNBC soon after, responding, “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.”
Let’s review some of the more obvious reasons Trump’s comments were so offensive:
First, this was supposed to be an event to honor Navajo Code Talkers, who risked their lives during World War II. It wasn’t open-mic night at a right-wing gathering, so there was no need for Trump to use this as an opportunity to attack a political opponent.
Second, Trump apparently thought it’d be a good idea to host his Native American guests in front of portrait of Andrew Jackson – who signed the Indian Removal Act.
And third, I realize that the president has a creepy preoccupation with Elizabeth Warren, but his near-constant references to “Pocahontas” is plainly insulting.
John Norwood, general secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, said Trump’s nickname for Warren “smacks of racism.”
“The reference is using a historic American Indian figure as a derogatory insult and that’s insulting to all American Indians,” Norwood said, noting that it was particularly bad in context of the event.
He added that the president should “stop using our historical people of significance as a racial slur against one of his opponents.
Today should’ve been easy. Even this president should be able to thank some heroes for their service, honor their work, and refrain from saying anything insulting for a few minutes.
But Donald J. Trump just can’t help himself.