Incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown put Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren on the defensive in the first televised debate of the hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race Thursday night when he challenged her to release her employment records. Brown, whose demeanor was friendly and pleasant, confronted Warren on her claims of Native American heritage in the very first minute of the debate:
"Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color, and as you can see, she's not. That being said, she checked the box.
"And she had an opportunity actually to make a decision throughout her career when she applied to Penn and Harvard, she checked the box claiming she was a Native American.
"And clearly she's not.
"That being said, I don't know and neither do the viewers know whether in fact she got ahead as a result of that checking of the box.
"The only way we'll be able to find that out is to have her release her personnel records and have Harvard release her personnel records to make sure she did not have an advantage that others were entitled to."
Warren responded to Brown's call for the release of her personnel records by ignoring it. Instead, she repeated and double downed on her Native American heritage claims, delivering the same responses that were ineffective the first time she used them months ago:
"When I was growing up these are the stories I knew about my heritage. I believed my mother and my father and my aunts and my uncles, and I never asked anybody for any documentation. I don't know any kid who did.
"My mother and dad loved each other very very much, and they wanted to get married and my father's family said no because my mother was part Delaware and part Cherokee.
"All of our lives for my three brothers and me that was a big part of the separation in our families."
In repeating her old claim that her parents were "forced to elope" because her mother had both Delaware and Cherokee Native American ancestry, Warren retold a story Breitbart News debunked in June with an article that showed her parents were married in a religous ceremony twenty miles from their hometown. Subsequent reports showed that their hometown paper proudly announced the wedding within days after the ceremony was performed on January 4, 1932.
In the debate Thursday night, Professor Warren also claimed that "the people who hired me for my jobs have all made clear they didn't even know about it until long after I was hired." In fact, she admitted to the Boston Globe in May that she herself had told both Penn and Harvard she was a woman of color prior to her hiring as a full time professor by Harvard.
In addition, she self identified as a "woman of color" in an article published by the Harvard Women's Law Journal in 1993, two years before she joined the Harvard Law School faculty as a tenured professor in 1995.
Professor Warren's debate performance Thursday night was consistent with her pattern of doubling down on her false claims despite indisputable evidence that disproves them.
While she began the night on the defensive over her Native American heritage claims, Warren's credibility was further damaged when Brown pointed out that Warren, the self proclaimed "intellectual godmother of Occupy Wall Street"and defender of the middle class against evil corporations, had received a huge $250,000 fee to help Travelers Insurance limit the amount of money it had to pay out in asbestos claims.
As Rob Eno of Red Mass Group noted, "Brown's biggest blow on Warren came over Travelers":
Professor Warren talks a good game, but when it comes down to action, she's often at odds with her preaching. This is true with foreclosures, where she's mined the well of others tears for profit, and with Travelers Insurance. Multiple talking head types, from all political stripes have said she didn't answer those questions well last night. Here's a sampling.
The Boston Herald's Peter Gelzinis: "Personally, I think the one subject Warren left on the table unanswered was Brown's charges about the role she played as a lawyer for Travelers Insurance." (Peter Gelzinis, Op-Ed, "Liz Warren's Jabs Get Under Scott Brown's Skin, The Boston Herald, 9/21/12)
WGBH's Adam Reilly: Warren's Response On Asbestos Exchange Was "Strangely Weak." "Toward the debate's end, he ripped Warren for her role helping Travelers Insurance limit payouts to asbestos victims. It's a complicated issue, and Brown didn't explain it as well as he might have. But Warren's response - which included asserting that she's not a 'career politician' - was strangely weak. Of all Brown's attacks, this one was most effective." (Adam Reilly, "Analysis: Scoring The First Brown-Warren Debate," WGBH, 9/20/12)
The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky: "First, I think the most memorable moment of the evening came toward the end when Brown attacked Warren for supposedly representing Travelers Insurance Co. against asbesos victims." (Michael Tomasky, "The Brown-Warren Debate," The Daily Beast, 9/21/12)
The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi: "He scored some points at the end, when he brought up Warren's representation of an insurance company against worker claims of asbestos poisoning: 'She didn't fight for the victims,' he declared." (Joan Vennochi, Op-Ed, "A Night Of Smirks And Verbal Jabs," The Boston Globe, 9/21/12)
The Boston Globe's Tom Keane: "And once the questioning left economics - clearly Warren's strong suit - she floundered, falling back on her own rehearsed lines (e.g., I'm not a professional politician) and pointedly avoiding Brown's often sharp attacks on her high salary and work on asbestos." (Tom Keane, Op-Ed, "Brown Had A Shaky Start But Finished Strong," The Boston Globe, 9/21/12)
WFXT's Cosmo Macero: "Something people haven't been talking about in a while, he really brought back into the fore here with the Travelers asbestos case. I think that's going to have a lasting impact. I think you'll see that, perhaps in ads and campaign messaging going forward. I thought that was an important moment for him also." (WFXT-TV, 9/20/12)
Ira Stoll's analysis at the Future of Capitalism also showed how Brown scored points by pointing out Warren's hypocrisy on financial matters:
Senator Brown also faulted Professor Warren for personally contributing to the high cost of college by earning nearly $300,000 a year, plus zero interest loans, to teach one class. And he faulted her for taking $250,000 from the Travelers insurance company to consult on denying claims for asbestos poisoning.
Later in the debate, Warren returned to familiar themes of class warfare, and unsuccessfully tried to paint Brown as a tool of Wall Street. The electorate in Massachusetts is, however, very liberal, and Ms. Warren's tried and true repetition of redistributionist themes may have been enough to limit the damage done by Brown's attacks on her false claims of Native American heritage and her hypocrisy in accepting a $250,000 fee to defend the "evil" Travelers Insurance corporation.