Reactions were divided Thursday to a social media post by former Rep. Jason Chaffetz that poked fun, perhaps indelicately, at the claims of native ancestry by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
The post shows Chaffetz posing next to a wooden, cigar store-style American Indian statue and references the recent controversy over Warren releasing results of her DNA testing that suggest a distant native ancestor.
“At Disneyland today with Senator Elizabeth Warren,” reads a caption accompanying Chaffetz’s photo.
The post by the congressman-turned-Fox-News-contributor quickly racked up thousands of comments, likes and retweets on Twitter, with responses ranging from amusement to allegations of racism.
Mark Maryboy, a Navajo elder and former San Juan County commissioner, said he considered the post to be racist.
“He has been so opposed to everything the San Juan County Navajo have been doing,” Maryboy said. “I’m not surprised he made that statement.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked Warren, calling her “Pocahontas," due to the Massachusetts politician’s claims to native ancestry.
This week, Warren released the results of a DNA test indicating a small percentage of genetic markers in her profile that are related to indigenous peoples.
The test results were met with widespread criticism, with some conservative leaders pointing to them as proof of Warren’s exaggerated diversity and liberals and tribal leaders condemning the use of race as a political tactic.
Asked about his Disneyland photo, Chaffetz told The Salt Lake Tribune that it was Warren, not him, who has acted with insensitivity.
“She thought those results were positive for her,” he said. “She has made a mockery of Native Americansm and I think it’s disgusting what she did.”
Chaffetz said most of the reactions to his post were sympathetic to his intended criticism of Warren.
“It’s overwhelmingly supportive of how ridiculous Senator Warren’s assertions are,” he said.
Maryboy, a Democrat, said he’s comfortable with Warren releasing her DNA results. The native American population has shrunk to very few people, Maryboy said, and he’s happy that Warren shares an indigenous ancestry.
“Any person, any member joining our group is welcome in my book,” Maryboy said.
Among those who were not amused by Chaffetz’s post was Shireen Ghorbani, a Democratic candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District who tweeted her own critical reaction to the photo.
“An unacceptable embarrassment to my fine state,” Ghorbani wrote. “Do better.”
Ghorbani told The Tribune that Chaffetz’s tweet is indicative of why people disengage with politics. She said she’s troubled by the divisive rhetoric of Trump and politicians who support him, which distracts from debate on important topics like ballooning health care costs.
“The line is crossed when we engage in mocking tweets or behaviors that have really nothing to do with the everyday issues that people are facing in this country.”