Elizabeth Warren says in a fundraising letter that she never used claims of Native American heritage for gain. But Harvard Law School’s curious hiring of the Rutgers Law-educated academic suggests otherwise.
“I never asked for and never got any benefit,” the senior senator from Massachusetts claimed in an email fundraising letter sent out Monday. “But that’s not what any of this is about. Donald Trump doesn’t care about the facts.”
Five years ago, when this reporter examined the resumes of the faculty at Harvard Law School, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, institution listed nearly one hundred professors and assistant professors of law in its employ. The majority of them received degrees from Harvard Law School. Yale Law School graduated another two dozen of them.
Save for a few specialists who obtained doctorates in fields outside of law, every professor and assistant professor at the elite school obtained a degree from a top-ten law school. Just five of its assistant or full professors earned degrees from schools in the bottom half of the top ten.
Elizabeth Warren, Rutgers Law class of ’76, who maintains that Harvard appointed her based on her scholarly and teaching abilities, serves as the sole exception to the school’s hiring pattern.
Rutgers currently ranks at 62 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which places it in a tie with Case Western Reserve and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The school’s reputation, perhaps because of the accomplishments of its most famous graduate, continues to improve. When Warren won election to the United States Senate, Rutgers owned the 82nd spot on the magazine’s list. In just five years, it leaped 20 spots.
The current controversy stems from President Donald Trump referring to Warren as “Pocahontas” during an Oval Office ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers on Monday. Warren quickly denounced the remarks as “racist” and issued a fundraising appeal asking for supporters to stand up to the “bully” president attempting to “silence” her.
Despite the fundraising letter’s claim that Warren never received any benefit because of her past boasts of Cherokee heritage, Harvard clearly went out of its way to tout her alleged background.
A 2012 report by Hillary Chabot of the Boston Herald noted boasts by Harvard of Warren’s alleged Native American lineage.
“Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the law school faculty includes no minority women, [then Harvard Law spokesman Mike] Chmura said professor of law Elizabeth Warren is Native American,” the Harvard Crimson reported in 1996. The Herald also pointed to the student newspaper’s claim two years later that Warren became “the first woman with a minority background to be tenured.”
Even publications sympathetic with Warren’s political aims doubted her ethnicity claims. The Atlantic, for instance, noted in 2012:
Her inability to name any specific Native American ancestor has kept the story alive, though, as pundits left and right have argued the case. Supporters touted her as part Cherokee after genealogist Christopher Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society said he’d found a marriage certificate that described her great-great-great-grandmother, who was born in the late 18th century, as a Cherokee. But that story fell apart once people looked at it more closely…. No one has surfaced that document, and there’s some reason to believe it may not exist. Lynda Smith later wrote that she does not believe she ever saw it herself, according to a report by amateur genealogist [and Breitbart reporter] Michael Patrick Leahy, who has helped lead a full court press from the right on the Warren ancestry story, along with other conservative outlets such as the Boston Herald and the blog Legal Insurrection.
Warren, who did not indicate Native American ancestry as a student, listed herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory for nine years prior to her hiring by Harvard.
Various employees at the school insisted her alleged ethnic background played no role in her obtaining her position. The Rutgers Law graduate agreed, saying five years ago: “I believe that I was recruited at Harvard because I’m a good teacher, and recruited for my other jobs because I do good work.”