A woman who says she is a descendant of Pocahontas has weighed in on President Donald Trump applying that sobriquet to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. During a ceremony yesterday honoring the Navajo code talkers, Trump mocked the Massachusetts Democrat with the Pocahontas moniker, although he didn’t mention the lawmaker by name.
Trump has referred to Warren as Pocahontas on several prior occasions because of her self-proclaimed Native American heritage, but yesterday’s remark prompted the senator to go on TV and accuse the president of making a racial slur, an allegation that was immediately picked up on by the White House press corps. In response, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the assembled reporters that “I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.”
Even many Trump supporters have acknowledged that the controversial quip about Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor and presumed 2020 presidential candidate if she wins reelection in 2018, added little to the event honoring the World War II heroes. While it may have been inappropriate, was the Pocahontas jab as offensive as portrayed by the mainstream media?
Back in September, Sky News interviewed Debbie “White Dove” Porreco, reportedly a descendant of Pocahontas who apparently knows President Trump personally, about the Pocahontas-Warren controversy.
Porreco reacted as follows.
“If Pocahontas were alive today, she would be very proud of President Trump. I’m a supporter of Donald Trump because he’s a go-getter…he sees what he needs to do, and does it. I know that he uses ‘Pocahontas’ sometimes with Elizabeth Warren. He said, ‘well does that offend you when I use that?’ And I told him ‘no, it doesn’t offend me’…Just like Pocahontas was a heroine, Donald Trump is going to be our hero.”
In the same interview, Irene Bedard, the voice of Disney’s Pocahontas but not a descendant, expressed the opposite opinion about Trump, implying that he is a misogynist and a bully. Watch the clip below and draw your own conclusions.
The Daily Caller provided some background on Debbie “White Dove” Porreco.
“Porreco, who was the model for Disney’s Pocahontas character, was recently profiled in an article in [the] Palm Beach Daily News. The piece explained that Porreco grew up poor on a reservation before attending college and working as a flight attendant. ‘Sometimes when I’m dining at Mar-a-Lago, I think to myself, ‘You’ve come a long way from that Indian reservation you started in,’ she said. ‘Pocahontas had dreams and went to England. My dreams brought me to Palm Beach.'”
Separately, one of the code talkers who was honored by President Trump yesterday also weighed in, according to a CNN political analyst, suggesting that he took no offense.
To put this controversy in some context, political critics of Elizabeth Warren originally mocked her with the derisive “Fauxcahontas” (rather than Pocahontas) nickname, which is a play on words from the election about five years ago.
In running against then-Senator Scott Brown (who is now U.S. ambassador to New Zealand) in 2012, Elizabeth Warren maintained that she was 1/32 Cherokee based on Oklahoma family folklore, but no formal corroboration of this claim’s validity has ever emerged. There are allegations that Warren nonetheless used her “minority” status to obtain important law teaching positions at several Ivy League universities under affirmative action. Last year, a prominent Native American writer referred to Warren as a “Pretendian.” In 2012, Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes asserted that no authentication existed for Warren’s purported Native American heritage.
In June 2016, then-candidate Trump said at a Tampa rally that he would apologize to Pocahontas for the reference “because Pocahontas is insulted by the statement,” MSNBC reported at the time. The future president also told ex-Fox News Channel anchor Bill O’Reilly that “I do regret calling [Warren] Pocahontas because I think it’s a tremendous insult to Pocahontas. So, Pocahontas, I would like to apologize to you,” CNSNews reported.
In May 2012, the Atlantic, a liberal publication, declared in a detailed story that based on genealogical evidence, Warren was not eligible for membership in one of any three Cherokee tribes recognized by the U.S. government, but also insisted that she never benefited in her professional career from claiming that heritage.
One of Elizabeth Warren’s potential rivals to unseat her in 2018, Republican businessman V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, gifted the senator with a home-based DNA test kit through Amazon as a birthday present last summer, but Warren refused the present. Ayyadurai’s campaign slogan is “Only a real Indian can defeat a fake Indian.”