US President Donald Trump on Monday (27 November) cracked a "Pocahontas" joke during a ceremony honoring Native American Code Talkers who served in World War II and Twitter was absolutely livid about it. Trump made the controversial remarks while standing beside three Navajo "code talkers", World War II veterans who helped the US Marine Corps by passing on secret, sensitive messages in their mother tongue to evade spies and the enemy.

"You're very, very special people," Trump said. "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. But you know what. I like you. Because you are special."

Trump used the racial slur to refer to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and poke fun at her claim of Native American heritage.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump frequently questioned and mocked Warren for saying she is part Native American. Earlier this month, Trump tweeted: "Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats...rigged the Primaries!"

Trump made the statement while standing beneath a portrait of former President American Jackson, who famously signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. The controversial law led to the forced evacuation of more than 120,000 Native Americans and ultimately resulted in the deaths of thousands of people on what later became known as the "Trail of Tears".

During the ceremony, Trump also referred to White House chief of staff John Kelly as "chief."

"He's the general and the chief," Trump said. "I said, how good were these code talkers? He said, 'Sir, you have no idea. You have no idea how great they were.'"

Warren slammed the president for his remarks saying: "It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States can't even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, defended the president saying the nickname "Pocahontas" is not a racial slur.

"I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career," Sanders said. She added that the term was not a racial slur and said it was "ridiculous" to label it as one.

Twitter, on the other hand, furiously blasted Trump for his use of the racist nickname at the event as well as the White House's defence of his behaviour. Many slammed the president over his "ignorant, racist and insulting" comments while some questioned: "When is enough, enough?"

One person described the incident as "one of the most grotesque moments in American political history."

"This is despicable," one Twitter user said.

"Instead of honoring the valiance of the Navajo code talkers, Mr. Trump once again made this about himself and his vengeance..." another person tweeted.

Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, wrote: "This is disgusting and dishonors all Native Americans, including the large number of Native veterans who have served our country. Donald Trump owes an apology to Tribal Nations and these American heroes."

"Historians will look back and call this period of American history 'The Dark Ages,'" one person said.

donald trump
President Donald Trump gestures as he hosts an event honouring the Native American code talkers, including Thomas Begay and Peter McDonald in front of a painting of President Andrew Jackson, at the White House in Washington REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque