Elizabeth Warren hits Trump on 'Pocahontas' slur, details her Native American roots

Sen. Elizabeth Warren hit back on Wednesday at President Donald Trump for repeatedlyridiculing her as "Pocahontas," saying he has tried to make Native American history "the butt of a joke" while also defending herself against criticism she hasn't been forthright about her heritage.

"We have a president who can't make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke," Warren, a possible Democratic presidential candidate, said during an unscheduled speech at the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. "The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me."

Warren, who Trump has claimed "made up her heritage" to advance her career, also addressed her family background, explaining that her mother was part Native American, but insisted she never tried to use it to her advantage.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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"I get why some people think there's hay to be made here. You won't find my family members on any rolls, and I'm not enrolled in a tribe," said Warren. "And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction."

She added, "I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career. But I want to make something else clear, too: My parents were real people."

The speech by Warren, who would be a leading Democratic presidential contender if she decides to run, highlighted that she's prepared to directly take on Trump over his insults, inflammatory rhetoric and contentious policies. Her remarks also show the Massachusetts Democrat is working to shore up possible political weaknesses by addressing her family background and charges she misrepresented it to gain unfair advantage in her career.

Warren said Wednesday her mother's family was "part Native American" and that her parents eloped in 1932 because her father's family opposed the relationship. She told the story of their difficult life together and vowed that she would not let Trump demean their legacy.

"They're gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away," she said.

And while Warren acknowledged that "our country's disrespect of Native people didn't start with President Trump," she promised that whenever he — or anyone else — insults her family, she will "use it to lift up the story" of other Native American families and communities.

Trump began using the "Pocahontas" slur to attack Warren during the 2016 campaign. In June 2016, he said Warren "made up her heritage, which I think is racist." "I think she's a racist, actually because what she did was very racist," Trump said then.

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That Mitch McConnell quote about Elizabeth Warren sounds like something Don Draper would come up with to market women's running shoes.
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Can't silence the truth. #ShePersisted
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Warren faced similar attacks about her heritage during her 2012 Senate race against Republican Scott Brown. Brown claimed she had dishonestly listed herself as Native American while working as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard to help her career.

Warren denied the charges at the time.

Trump, meanwhile, has continued his use of the derogatory nickname, including during a White House event in November honoring Native American veterans.

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