Sen. Elizabeth Warren formally announced her candidacy for the White House on Saturday, and hours later President Donald Trump weighed in on his newest 2020 campaign opponent with a line that many critics interpreted as a joke about the Trail of Tears.
"Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President," he wrote on Twitter. “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!"
The president's use of the word "trail" in all caps was widely interpreted as a reference to the Trail of Tears in which Native Americans were forcibly relocated from their homes in the southeastern U.S. to reservations in Oklahoma in the 1800s. Thousands of them died from disease, starvation and exposure along the way.
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
Some Trump supporters defended the president, arguing he did not intend to refer to the Trail of Tears.
Fox News' Brit Hume argued that Trump was too ignorant of American history to have intended such a reference.
"Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez," Hume replied sarcastically to a tweet accusing the president of using "the murders of Indigenous people as a punchline."
Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez. https://t.co/WYmvB1jg1O— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 10, 2019
Trump has often mocked Warren's claims of Cherokee heritage with jibes that some have found offensive, including his "Pocahontas" nickname and a tweet that referenced the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in which U.S. troops killed hundreds of Sioux, many of them women and children.
Trump has said he is "a fan" of former President Andrew Jackson, who signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. He also picked a portrait of Jackson to hang in the Oval Office in 2017.
In January, after Warren announced she was forming a presidential exploratory committee, Trump tweeted:
"If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!"
Warren apologized on Wednesday for "not having been more sensitive about tribal citizenship" after The Washington Post published a 1986 Texas bar registration card where she listed her race as "American Indian."
It was at least the third time in a week that Warren has apologized for her past self-identification.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump appears to mock Trail of Tears in tweet about Senator Warren's campaign announcement