White House denies Trump made slur with 'Pocahontas' remark

WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said there was a "Pocahontas" in the U.S. Congress during a meeting on Monday with Native American World War Two veterans in an apparent derogatory reference to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

After listening to one veteran speak at length about his experience as a "Navajo code talker" during the war, Trump heaped praise on the veterans and said he would not give prepared remarks himself.

"You were here long before any of us were here," Trump said. "Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas."

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President Trump meets with Native American World War II veterans
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President Trump meets with Native American World War II veterans
US President Donald Trump greets Navajo veterans in the Oval Office of the White House during an event honoring Native American code talkers who served in World War II on November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he hosts an event honouring the Native American code talkers, including Thomas Begay (L) and Peter McDonald, in front of a painting of President Andrew Jackson, at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump hosts an event honouring the Native American code talkers, including Thomas Begay (L) and Peter McDonald, in front of a painting of President Andrew Jackson, at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay laughs after handing his card to U.S. President Donald Trump at an event honouring the group for their contributions during World War Two at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump hosts an event honouring the Native American code talkers, including Thomas Begay (L) and Peter McDonald, in front of a painting of President Andrew Jackson, at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he honours Navajo Code Talkers for their contributions during World War Two at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump greets Navajo Code Talkers as he honours their contributions during World War Two as they take part in an event at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay hands a card to U.S. President Donald Trump at an event honouring the group for their contributions during World War Two at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with a World War II veteran during an event honoring Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
A Navajo World War II veteran speaks during an event honoring Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. President Donald Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump, second right, shakes hands with a World War II veteran during an event honoring Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks with World War II veterans during an event honoring Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks with World War II veterans during an event honoring Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during an event honoring World War II veteran Native American 'Code Talkers' inside the Oval Officer of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Trump punctuated a meeting with Native American veterans on Monday by calling Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' -- a racially-tinged nickname he's deployed for years to belittle one of his chief Democratic antagonists. Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets members of the Native American code talkers during an event in the Oval Office of the White House, on November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump stated, '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.' in reference to his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. World War II Navajo Code Talker and Iwo Jima survivor Thomas Begay is one of the last surviving code talkers. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (L) hosts members of the Native American code talkers during an event in the Oval Office of the White House, on November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump stated, '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.' in reference to his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (Photo by Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump greets Navajo veterans in the Oval Office of the White House during an event honoring Native American code talkers who served in World War II November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A portrait of the 7th US President Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act, is seen as a Navajo Code Talker speaks during an event in the Oval Office of the White House with US President Donald Trump to honor Native American code talkers November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: World War II Navajo Code Talker and Iwo Jima survivor Thomas Begay (L) poses for photographs after he arrives at the White House November 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. One of the last surviving code talkers, Begay is scheduled to participate in an event with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Trump repeatedly referred to Warren as "Pocahontas," the name of a famous 17th-century Native American, during his presidential campaign in a mocking reference to Warren's having said in the past that she had Native American ancestry.

Warren, one of the Senate's most prominent liberal Democrats, is a noted legal scholar who taught at Harvard Law School and served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama before she was elected to the Senate in 2012.

"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," Warren said on MSNBC.

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Elizabeth Warren
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Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' featuring testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others, January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Armed Services Committee members (L-R) Sen. Martin Heinrich (D - NM), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) talk during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrive for a hearing with the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Agency chief in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), speaks to and meets New England voters during a rally at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday October 24, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Mark Wahlberg, Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner Billy Evans, Former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, Dun 'Danny' Meng, Jessica Downes, Patrick Downes, Senator Elizabeth Warren, director Peter Berg and Harvard Law professor Bruce Mann pose on the red carpet at the 'Patriots Day' screening at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on December 14, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Photo by Natasha Moustache/WireImage)

Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), speaks to and meets New England voters during a rally at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday October 24, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Red Sox player David Ortiz talks with Senator Elizabeth Warren at the 'Patriots Day' screening at the Boch Center Wang Theatre on December 14, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

(Photo by Natasha Moustache/WireImage)

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren hold a rally at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH on Oct. 24, 2016.

(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Manchester 'New Hampshire Together' Canvass Launch event in Manchester, NH on Sept. 24, 2016.

(Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren speaks onstage at EMILY's List Breaking Through 2016 at the Democratic National Convention at Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images For EMILY's List)

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, holds up copies of Wells Fargo earnings call transcripts as she questions John Stumpf, chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, as he testifies about the unauthorized opening of accounts by Wells Fargo during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 20, 2016.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) along with members of the Democratic Women of the Senate acknowledge the crowd on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.

(Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers remarks on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III welcomes Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren on stage on Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accompanied by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to and meets Ohio voters during a rally at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday, June 27, 2016.

(Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airing live, Thursday July 21, 2016 in New York. With guest Elizabeth Warren .

(Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) arrives in the Capitol for the on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (R) meets with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland (L), chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court, April 14, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Garland continued to place visits to Senate members after he was nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, listens as Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Yellen offered a subtle change to her outlook from less than a week ago, saying she and her colleagues were on watch for whether, rather than when, the U.S. economy would show clear signs of improvement.

(Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., greets guests during a rally on the east lawn of the Capitol to urge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to hold a vote on the 'Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act,' March 9, 2016. The legislation would provide a one time payment to seniors, veterans and other SSI recipients who will not get a cost-of-living adjustment this year.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators Bob Corker (L) and Elizabeth Warren (R) speak before a Senate Banking Committee on the semiannual monetary report to Congress hearing in Washington, USA on February 11, 2016.

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), talks with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the House chamber prior to President Obama's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013.

(REUTERS/Charles Dharapak/Pool)

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White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders disputed the characterization of Trump's remark as a racial slur.

"I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career," Sanders told reporters.

Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, questioned the "use of the name Pocahontas as a slur ... Once again, we call upon the president to refrain from using her name in a way that denigrates her legacy.”

Trump's comment immediately trended on social media. The word "Pocahontas" appeared 12 times on Twitter every second, according to social media analytics company Zoomph.

Trump's knock at Warren came as his administration is embroiled in controversy over the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which Warren helped develop before entering politics.

The agency, set up to protect Americans from abusive lending practices after the financial crisis, has been under attack by Trump since he took office in January.

On Friday, Trump named his budget director as the interim head of the agency, after its outgoing chief named someone else to the job, setting up a court battle.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Angela Moon; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)

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