Donald Trump appeared to make a joke about the Trail of Tears – the forced relocation of Native Americans leading to the deaths of thousands of people – as he mocked the launch of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.
The president tweeted about the senator for Massachusetts hours after she made her bid for the White House official on Saturday, deriding her claims at Native American ancestry by calling her “Pocahontas”.
He also tweeted: “Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”
By capping up the word “trail”, Mr Trump made an apparent reference to the removal of Native Americans from ancestral lands onto reservations during the 1800s.
Donald Trump Jr. later appeared to encourage the interpretation of Mr Trump’s post by sharing a tweet by the right-wing commentator Michael Malice: “The Native American genocide continues with another murder by the president.”
Mr Trump has used the “Pocahontas” slur several times when talking about Ms Warren. He even used it at a ceremony honouring Navajo leaders at The White House in 2017.
The president also chose to hang a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830, in the Oval Office.
Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)February 9, 2019
The ancestry issue threatens to overshadow Ms Warren’s presidential campaign. In the past week she has been forced to apologise for claiming Native American identity early in her career.
The Washington Post revealed she listed her race as “American Indian” on a Texas bar registration card in 1986.
In October she released a DNA test showing up to 1/64 of her DNA was from a Native American population.
Ms Warren made her bid for the presidency official in the working-class Massachusetts city of Lawrence on Saturday, promising to build “an America that works for everyone”.
She said the president “is not the cause of what’s broken … He’s just the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America”.
The senator enters the race as one of the party’s most recognisable figures, having first emerged as a consumer activist during the financial crisis. She also has $11 million left over from her 2018 Senate re-election victory that can be used on her presidential run.
Earlier this month a Politico/Morning Consult poll of Democrat voters showed former Vice President Joe Biden leading the pack with 33 per cent of the vote, Senator Bernie Sanders in second at 15 per cent and Senator Kamala Harris in third with 10 per cent.
Ms Warren was tied for fourth on 6 per cent.
After proposing an “ultra-millionaire tax” that would hit the wealthiest 75,000 households in America, Ms Warren said last week that she continues to “believe in capitalism”.