Sarah Huckabee Sanders probably didn’t think she would have the spend the bulk of her first White House press conference after Thanksgiving weekend defending President Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” to refer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during an event honoring Native American veterans. But there she was Monday afternoon doing just that.
“You’re very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump told the group of Navajo code talkers. “Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.” (Actually, it’s mostly just Trump who calls her that.)
“Why did he feel the need to say something that is offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo code talkers, these genuine American heroes?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked Sanders at the White House press briefing.
“I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders replied, without skipping a beat. If she was aware of the irony that Trump advanced his own political career by lying about President Obama’s heritage, she did not let on.
In her own response on MSNBC, Warren 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.” Sanders, meanwhile, called the idea that “Pocahontas” could be considered a “racial slur” in this context “ridiculous.”
But that was not the only question Sanders received about Trump’s comments. Over the course of the briefing, reporters kept returning to the seemingly unnecessary “joke” by the president at an event that was intended to honor Native American heritage.
“Why is it appropriate for the president to use a racial slur in any context?” NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked.
“I don’t think that it is appropriate for him to use a racial slur, or anyone else,” Sanders replied, before adding, “I think Senator Warren was offensive when she lied about something to advance her career. I don’t know why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered.”
In fact, the questions about Warren’s heritage were “constantly covered” during her 2012 Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown, a campaign that she ultimately won. And while she has never definitively proven that she has Cherokee blood, there is also no concrete evidence that she benefitted professionally because of those claims.
During the same briefing on Monday, Sanders used Trump’s 2016 victory in the presidential race to dismiss both the Access Hollywood tape in which he infamously boasted of grabbing women “by the pussy,” and the many sexual-misconduct allegations levied against him in the wake of that footage.
“The president addressed this,” she said. “This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the president and the fact that he is sitting here in the Oval Office today.”
Clearly, Trump does not extend the same courtesy to Sen. Warren.