Yesterday President Donald Trump honored a few of World War II’s Navajo Code Talkers in the Oval Office. These men deserve the thanks of a grateful nation for their work giving and receiving encrypted messages of the utmost importance. To take just one example:
Commenting on the Marines’ Iwo Jima landing, Major Howard Conner, the Fifth Marine Division’s Signal Officer, said that ‘The entire operation was directed by Navajo code. . . . During the two days that followed the initial landings I had six Navajo radio nets working around the clock. . . . They sent and received over 800 messages without an error. Were it not for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.’
Sadly, this event in the Oval Office would have received little to no coverage from the media if not for the Insulter-in-Chief’s decision to speak against a U.S. senator who falsely claimed to be Native American. You can watch here:
— Bloomberg (@business) November 27, 2017
Now, it’s beyond reasonable to criticize President Trump for mucking up a ceremony honoring World War II heroes with a petty invocation of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s false claim of Native American heritage. That’s an appropriate criticism to make, if one feels compelled to criticize Donald Trump for continuing to be Donald Trump. But instead, many in the media did what they have done so well for the last couple of years. They matched Trump’s lack of good sense with even greater silliness.
Fact check: that’s idiotic. Warren claimed to be Native American despite there being no evidence of that claim being true. This false information was something she didn’t claim as a student, but began putting in her professional bios for a few years when law school faculties were hungry for minority faculty. Harvard University proudly proclaimed her as a minority female on the basis of information she provided. Her evidence is limited to claims other family members dispute of “folklore” and her paw-paw having “high cheekbones.” No, I’m not joking, she cited high cheekbones:
There is zero evidence that Warren is Cherokee, as she claimed for years. Cherokee genealogists say it’s not true. That’s why Trump calls her Pocahontas.
Pocahontas, of course, was the awesome Powhatan Native American associated with the early sixteenth-century Jamestown settlement. She is said to have saved the life of English captive John Smith. There’s a big, beautiful John Gadsby Chapman painting of her baptism in the Capitol rotunda.
The typical insult for Warren among her critics isn’t Pocahontas, but “Fauxcahontas.” For some reason Trump just goes with Pocahontas. These are not insults of Native Americans, but of people falsely claiming to be Native Americans. And one need not be that smart to understand that. It’s a low bar, yet one that a press corps engaged in pie trutherism over the weekend might be unable to meet.
The only way the Pocahontas insult makes sense is as a joke about Warren’s false claim of being Native American. He’s not insulting her for being a Native American, because she’s not Native American. He’s highlighting how she gave employers and others false information about her tribal status while at Harvard and elsewhere.
Yet watch how the White House press corps queries Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the incident:
Sarah Sanders says she doesn’t think it’s a racial slur for President Trump to refer to Sen. Warren as “Pocahontas” https://t.co/Sex6dDisuA
— CNN (@CNN) November 27, 2017
ABC News’ Jonathan Karl says, in essence, that it’s offensive to highlight how Warren gave false information about her tribal status. NBC News’ Kristen Welker begs the question with, “Why is it appropriate for the president use a racial slur in any context?” The second questioner in the video above was able to ask a pointed and tough question without resorting to the ridiculous Democratic talking point of “racial slur.” It went something like this:
The president was speaking at an event to honor members of the greatest generation who fought in World War II, who are in their 80s and 90s. And the moment had many people on line asking whether the president lacks decency. What is your response to that?
Yes, absolutely, it’s good for journalists to ask tough questions about the timing and propriety of calling Warren ‘Pocahontas.’ It’s a question that should be and was answered. Too bad for this reporter that his colleagues went straight for the Democratic talking points. Seriously, could we get some daylight between the press corps and Warren and Chuck Schumer, or no?
Other Media Missteps
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal noted that the Washington Post’s write-up of the event used the same type of language Donald Trump uses for his unsourced claims:
The Washington Post has five stories on the matter on their website, sadly all about “Pocahontas” as opposed to the Navajo Code Talkers. Most stories at media outlets didn’t even bother to mention the names of the honorees. From Peter McDonald’s remarks yesterday at the White House:
Today, we have with us three of the thirteen surviving Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. First, we have Fleming Begaye. Fleming Begaye is 97 years old, the oldest veteran of World War II. He survived the Battle of Tarawa. His landing craft was blown up and he literally had to swim to the beach to survive. Also, on Saipan, he also landed on Tinian where he got shot up real badly, survived one year in naval hospital.
We have Thomas Begay, also one of the Code Talkers who were on Iwo Jima, a tough battle, where Three Marine Division landed on Iwo; 5th Marine Division — he was part of the Code Talkers within the 5th Marine Division.
Also, as if Marine Corps was not enough, he enlisted to be United States Army, and served in the Korean War. Survived that awful battle at Chosin.
My name is Peter MacDonald. I’m the president of the 13 surviving Navajo Code Talkers. I went in — I’m 90 years old — I went in when I was 15 years old in 1944. I was with the 1st Marine Brigade on Guam, and then went on to North China with 6th Marine Division to get those Japanese in Northern China to surrender. They didn’t want to surrender, but it took 1st Marine Division, 6th Marine Division to get them to surrender eventually. We had a separate treaty ceremony in Tsingtao, China, October 25th, 1945.
Ari Fleischer noticed something else about the media coverage:
Except it’s even worse than that. Many stories were framed in such a way as to give the impression that Warren is Native American. Although this CNN story is billed as news, it features liberal opinions as
apples bananas fact: “Pocahontas was a historical figure from the 17th Century and using her name in an intentionally disparaging way insults native peoples and degrades their cultures.” As Gabriel Malor said, “No, derogatorily referring to a person who falsely claimed to be a Native American as Pocahontas is not a racial slur. It demeans no racial or ethnic group.”
CNN’s opinion article labeled as news goes on to claim that only “conservatives” have a problem with Warren’s claims of Native American heritage, without mentioning that those claims are false. Instead, it’s presented as a murky affair:
Warren says she is, in fact, part Native American, citing ‘family stories’ passed down through generations of her family.
‘I am very proud of my heritage,’ Warren told NPR in 2012. ‘These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.’
“In fact”? Note that while Warren made the rounds to many media outlets yesterday to promote the media/Democratic narrative that Trump’s insult is “racist,” not one reporter asked Warren if she could substantiate her claim in any way, shape, or form. No one asked her why she hasn’t explained her conflicting statements about her status.
In addition to responding to the Pocahantas insult, Warren was raising money off it. Couldn’t any reporter who covers her or interviews her on TV nearly every day think to ask some tough questions nailing down her current claim or getting her to take responsibility for her false statements over the years? Anyone?