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WASHINGTON — President Trump, appearing at an event to honor Navajo code talkers, made a reference to his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): Pocahontas.

“I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people,” Trump said at a White House ceremony.  “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.'”

He added, “But you know what, I like you because you are special.  You are special people.”

There was no reaction from those at the ceremony.

Trump has frequently used that term as an insult to describe Warren. She has said that she is part Native American, but her heritage became an issue in her 2012 presidential campaign when her rival, Scott Brown, questioned her ancestry and even suggested that she should take a DNA test. One issue was whether Warren got preferential treatment at Harvard Law School for designating herself as a minority. She has insisted that her career did not benefit from her heritage.

Warren defeated Brown that year, ending his brief career in the Senate.

Warren told MSNBC after Trump’s remark on Monday that it was “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. Donald Trump does this over and over thinking somehow he is going to shut me up with it. It hasn’t worked out in the past, it isn’t going to work out in the future.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to deflect Trump’s use of the name at the ceremony.

Asked by ABC News’ Jon Karl why Trump feels “the need to say something that is offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo code talkers,” Sanders said, “I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.”