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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – President Donald Trump faces growing criticism over a comment he made while honoring Native Americans that many are calling a racial slur.

It was supposed to be a ceremony focused on honoring Native American “code talkers”. But that focus quickly shifted from those who used their tribal language to relay military orders during World War II, to language president Trump used while recognizing them.

“And I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were her. 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,” said Mr. Trump.

The president was referring, as he often has, to Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren who has claimed she is part Cherokee.

“It is so disturbing that at an event like that. A celebration of heroes that Donald Trump has to turn once again to a racial slur,” she said.

After the event, the Navajo Nation released a statement calling the president’s words “culturally insensitive”. The National Congress of American Indians described it as a “slur” that overshadowed the Native American war heroes the President was there to honor.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, when asked about it, insisted the president did not intend to sound offensive or use a slur.

“I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” said Sanders.

Adding fuel to the critical fire, Mr. Trump’s comment was made underneath a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the president who signed into law the Indian Removal Act.

There are currently just 13 Navajo “code talkers” still alive. Those at the ceremony asked for a museum to be built in order to help remember their heroism. President Trump agreed to help, telling them, “You deserve it”.