UN Ambassador Nikki Haley waded into a controversy over a senator’s heritage — by poking fun at her own.
While speaking to the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York on Thursday, Haley told the crowd organizers had “wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test.”
U.S. Sen. Warren, D-Mass., announced the results of a DNA test this week that shows “strong evidence” of Native American heritage in the last six to 10 generations of her family history.
Warren has in the past claimed to be part Cherokee, a claim that has led to criticism that she played up a thin claim to minority status in order to advance her academic career.
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President Donald Trump in particular has taken to mocking Warren for the claim, giving her the nickname “Pocahontas” in several speeches.
The South Carolina-born Haley, meanwhile, is the daughter of immigrants from the Punjab region of India. But that hasn’t stopped some from confusing her Indian heritage with Native Americans — including, she joked, the president.
“Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren,” Haley told the New York fundraiser.
Trump had previously pledged to donate $1 million to charity if Warren could prove a Native American connection, but dismissed the offer Monday after the DNA results were released, telling reporters at the White House, “Who cares?”
But Warren has also faced criticism for her decision to release the DNA results. Cherokee Nation officials have said the tribe does not use DNA tests to establish membership, and that the claim cheapens the identities of tribal members with deeper ties to their Indian past.
Haley made more jokes at the Smith dinner, as reported by CNN.
▪ “People always wonder if I felt different or isolated as an Indian-American growing up in rural South Carolina. Actually, there was a benefit. It totally prepared me for being a Republican in New York.”
▪ “I do have diplomatic immunity ... an exemption from prosecution, or as Mayor de Blasio calls it, a sanctuary city! Oh look, I got the mayor a drink up on stage — no ice!”
▪ “People ask me all the time what they should call me -- governor, ambassador, Nikki. You can call me anything, just don’t call me anonymous.”