Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has blasted U.S. President Donald Trump for mocking her with the nickname "Pocahontas" during a ceremony honoring Navajo veterans of World War II.
Trump's nickname for Warren references a 2012 controversy over her claims to Native American ancestry. The White House has asserted that Warren is at fault for allegedly appropriating indigenous heritage, while several Native American tribes have stated that they found the president's comment offensive.
On Nov. 27, Trump hosted three Navajo Code Talkers at the White House. The three military veterans had served as crucial communications specialists in the Pacific front of World War II. Trump, with a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson -- who had signed the 1830 Indian Removal Act -- behind him, repeated his unflattering nickname for Warren before the three veterans.
"You were here long before any of us were here," Trump told the Navajos. "Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her 'Pocahontas!'"
Trump began calling Warren by the nickname during the 2016 campaign, using the term to mock her claims of Native American heritage.
The Massachusetts Democrat sent out an email to supporters asserting that Trump had "stooped to a disgusting low."
"This afternoon, in the Oval Office, Donald Trump was supposed to be honoring Navajo code talkers -- American heroes who helped save the world from fascism and hate during World War II," Warren wrote, according to Time. "Instead, Trump stood right next to those Native American war heroes and came after me with another racist slur."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders pushed back against questions about the appropriateness of Trump's remark, responding: "I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career."
Warren, in turn, fired back against Sanders' statement.
"I never used it to get ahead," Warren said. "I never used it to get into school. I never used it to get a job."
The senator said that she "learned about my family the way that most people learn about their families. My brothers and I learned from our mother and our daddy and our grandparents who we are."
During the 1990s, Harvard Law School listed Warren as an ethnic minority when she served on the faculty. In 2012, her claims to Native American ancestry came under scrutiny during a Senate race, with GOP opponent Scott Brown asserting that she had fabricated the background to get ahead, according to NPR.
Warren's ancestral roots have not been verified by genealogists. She responded to the controversy by stating: "I believe that I was recruited at Harvard because I'm a good teacher."
Navajo Nation Council delegate Amber Kanazbaj Crotty released a statement blasting Trump's remark, asserting that it reduced the historical figure of Pocahontas to a crude stereotype, The Hill reports.
"The reckless appropriation of this term is deeply offensive and dangerous to the sovereignty of our identity of our peoples ... The Navajo Code Talkers are not pawns to advance a person grudge, or promote false narratives," Crotty said.
The National Congress of American Indians president Jefferson Keel also weighed in: "We regret the president's use of the name Pocahontas as a slur to insult a political adversary is overshadowing the true purpose of today's White House ceremony."
Keel requested that Trump stop using Pocahontas' name "in a way that denigrates her legacy."
U.S. Marine veteran Michael Smith, whose father was a Code Talker, said that he was disappointed that Trump would involve a political feud during the ceremony.
"I thought the whole press conference was going well up to that point," Smith told HuffPost. "And it's unfortunate that he's so focused on attacking this person [rather] than honoring these men."