Yesterday, the Boston Globe printed a retraction of their May 1 story, titled “Document ties Warren kin to Cherokees,” written by Noah Bierman:
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in the May 1 Metro section and the accompanying headline incorrectly described the 1894 document that was purported to list Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s great-great-great grandmother as a Cherokee. The document, alluded to in a family newsletter found by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, was an application for a marriage license, not the license itself. Neither the society nor the Globe has seen the primary document, whose existence has not been proven.
This correction, however, is not a truthful account of their inaccurate reporting of the original May 1 story, the key segment of which is shown below:
A record unearthed Monday shows that US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has a great-great-great grandmother listed in an 1894 document as a Cherokee, said a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.
The shred of evidence could validate her assertion that she has Native American ancestry, making her 1/32 American Indian, but may not put an end to the questions swirling around the subject…
Chris Child, a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogy Society, said he began digging into Warren’s family history on Thursday, when media interest emerged.
At first, he found no link between Warren’s family and Native Americans in her native Oklahoma.
But Monday afternoon, he said, he discovered a few links. Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, is listed on her son’s 1894 marriage license as a Cherokee. [emphasis added]
The May 15 correction contains four misleading components:
1. The Globe knew on April 30 that the source document for the May 1 story was a 2006 family newsletter written and published in England, which they misleadingly described as a “record.” Their correction did not acknowledge this error.
2. The correction’s statement that “the document, alluded to in a family newsletter found by the NEHGS, was an application for a marriage license, not the license itself,” is a bit of intentional misdirection that creates the false impression that a purported, non-existent “application for a marriage license” referenced in the 2006 family newsletter was the primary document attesting to the 1894 marriage of William J. Crawford, great-great grand uncle of Elizabeth Warren, and Mary E. (Long) Wolford in Logan County, Oklahoma Territory.
3. The last sentence of yesterday’s correction states “Neither the society nor the Globe has seen the primary document, whose existence has not been proven,” re-enforcing the false impression that the primary document attesting to the 1894 marriage of William J. Crawford and Mary E. (Long) Wolford is the so-called “marriage license application.” The Globe, however, is fully aware that the primary documents are instead the May 12, 1894 marriage license and the May 13, 1894 certificate of marriage, the originals of which are found in Book 2, pages 157 and 158 of the Logan County, Oklahoma marriage records of 1894, a certified copy of which containing the stamp of current Logan County Court Clerk ReJeinia Zmek and signed by her deputy on May 10, 2012 can be seen here. These are the only two primary documents that were ever created, a fact which Noah Bierman was well aware of, since I emailed him the May 11 Breitbart article, Warren’s Cherokee Claim Based on Family Newsletter; No Marriage License Application to Be Found, that shows those two primary documents.
4. The correction failed to include relevant descriptive information about what it referred to as a “family newsletter, “which was, in fact, the March 2006 edition of the Buracker & Boraker Family History Research Newsletters Number 34, published by R.C. Boraker of St. Albans, England, which can be seen here. The correction gave the impression the newsletter was from close relatives within the Elizabeth Warren family, and it further failed to disclose the date of the newsletter, giving some readers the impression in the correction that it may have been closer in time to the 1894 marriage than it in fact was.
The May 1st story incorrectly referred to the 2006 family newsletter that, before the story’s publication, New England Historic Genealogical Society genealogist Chris Child told the Globe was his source document, as a “record.” That the Globe knew the original source document was a 2006 family newsletter and not a contemporaneous 1890s vital statistics record was confirmed by Mr. Child on Howie Carr’s WRKO radio program yesterday afternoon. Calling the source document a “record” gave readers of the story the incorrect impression that the source document for the story was a contemporaneous vital statistics record from 1894. The Globe knew this not to be true and also knew that a 2006 family newsletter is not a “record.”
Child told Carr that the Globe not only knew the 2006 family newsletter was his source document, he sent them a copy of it on Monday afternoon, April 30, before they broke the first version of the story at 7:48 pm on April 30. This version, titled “Genealogist says Warren may be able to claim Cherokee heritage,” appears to be identical to the May 1 story which the Globe retracted yesterday, Document ties Warren kin to Cherokees , in all aspects but the title.
Child addressed this issue at the end of a nearly 20 minute interview, which can be heard in its entirety here.
When Howie Carr asked him if he thought the original Boston Globe article was accurate, Mr. Child said:
“They [the Boston Globe] didn’t mention [in their original story] that they had seen the [2006 family] newsletter…”
That the Globe knew the May 1 article gave readers the false impression that the source document for the story was a contemporaneous vital statistics record from 1894 is confirmed by several subsequent reports of it in the press, including ABC News, the New York Times, CBS News, the Huffington Post and the Associated Press. A May 9 article by the Chicago Tribune‘s Clarence Page best illustrates how completely many members of the media accepted and regurgitated the factually incorrect information first conveyed in the Globe’s May 1 story. Page’s story stated:
That question looms after researcher Christopher Child at the New England Historic Genealogical Society turned up evidence of her Indian blood. A transcript of an 1894 marriage application shows Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother listed herself as Cherokee. [emphasis added]
Clarence Page and many other readers of the May 1 Globe article obtained the intentionally false understanding the Globe wished to convey when it used the word “record” instead of “2006 family newsletter” to describe the source document that “shows that US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has a great-great-great grandmother listed in an 1894 document as a Cherokee” in the May 1 story.
Several media and legal experts have noted problems with the Globe‘s May 15 correction as well.
Arnold Ahlert over at Front Page properly called the original May 1st and the long delay in issuing the May 15 correction “[t]he transparent efforts of a biased media to maintain the fiction as long as possible.” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said the correction “seems like a pretty important disclosure to be simply pushed into the correction section of the newspaper.”
In a final note on the peculiar nature of the May 15 correction, the suggestion that its focus on a “reporting error” surrounding the incorrect description of “application for a marriage license” as a “marriage license” is an intential bit of misdirection appears to be confirmed by the actual chronology of the three versions of the story that appeared in the Globe between April 30 and May 1.
Yesterday’s correction refer to the May 1st version of the story when, in fact, the May 1st version was the third version of the story, and the second version, unlike the May 1st version, referenced an “application for a marriage license,” a point that the correction failed to mention.
The Globe ran two versions of the story before the now-retracted May 1 version. It first appeared at 7:48 pm on April 30, under the title “Genealogist says Warren may be able to claim Cherokee heritage,” as previously mentioned. In this version of the story, O.C. Sarah Smith was “listed in her son’s 1894 marriage license as a Cherokee.” The second version of the story, under the title “Document ties Warren kin to Cherokees,” first appeared on April 30, some time subsequent to 7:48 pm but prior to midnight. In this version of the story, a screen shot of which can be seen here, O.C. Sarah Smith was “listed on her son’s 1894 application for a marriage license as a Cherokee.” In the May 1 version of the story, the new title was used, but O.C. Sarah Smith was once more “listed on her son’s 1894 marriage license as a Cherokee.”
In light of these errors that created an entirely incorrect understanding of the story and launched the false “Elizabeth Warren is 1/32 Cherokee” meme throughout the media, the Globe should act to reverse the damage its story and subsequent inaccurate correction have caused.
Michael Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.