Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)–the Democratic contender challenging Republican Scott Brown for his Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat–was apparently proud of her so-called Cherokee heritage when she started teaching law at Harvard back in the early 1990s. In fact, she was so proud that she allowed the university to list her as a “minority professor” because she believed she was 1/32 Cherokee.
Well, if that doesn’t seem ridiculous, here’s something even better–Warren’s sympathizers in the mainstream media would like to convince the American public that it’s a “foolish witch-hunt” to question her sincerity for having labeled herself a minority with 1/32 Native American heritage.
That’s what Michael Tomasky (pictured above), a Newsweek and Daily Beast correspondent contends. In fact, he’s even stated that the story is the “biggest media manufactured story since the Lewinsky scandal nearly brought down a president.”
First of all, let’s get something straight.
I was an intern in the Clinton White House at the same time Monica Lewinsky was during the Spring of 1996, and although I felt the story cruelly and unjustifiably vilified Ms. Lewinsky, the facts about the President of the United States having an affair with an intern inside the Oval Office turned out to be true.
That story wasn’t manufactured–and guess what? This story isn’t either. It turned out that the purported 1894 marriage license application that Warren’s supporters were depending on to prove her Native American heritage status doesn’t exist.
Despite Mr. Tomasky’s pleas for the American public to write Professor Warren a hall pass on this one, she most likely was the one to list herself as a minority with Harvard, and now it’s a perfectly legitimate story because it goes to the very heart of her honesty as a candidate for a major political office.
There are three very important questions the media should consider here:
(1) Why did Warren think that having 1/32 heritage of any group qualified her to list herself as a minority?
(2) Is it true that she’s a Cherokee in the first place?
(3) Did Warren get any hiring preferences or special advantages by listing herself as a minority?
Tomasky dismisses the first question because, apparently, the Cherokee rules dictate that if you’re 1/32 Cherokee they consider you a a member of the tribe. That may be the case, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify her as a “minority” when it comes to her legal status. After all, she’s still 31/32 white. It would be interesting to know how Warren listed herself on applications for her voter registration, driver’s license, and U.S. income tax returns.
It’s an important issue because voters have the right to know if Warren exploited this sliver of her (supposed) heritage to get special consideration or attention, and that goes to the heart of her morality and her judgment–which leads us to the second question.
Tomasky dismisses the issue of Warren proving her Native American heritage because, “You have to go back five generations to get to 1/32. It’s entirely possible such a thing can’t even be proven.”
That’s a good point.
If it was that long ago and it’s probably not provable, why was it relevant for then-Professor Warren to list it in the first place? What made her so confident in this family lore that, for years, she would use it to obtain real-world advantages which could and would have gone to educators with verifiable minority status? To quote Mr. Braddock from the film “The Graduate,” “This whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.”
Finally, there’s the issue of whether or not Warren received any kind of special hiring preference or advantage when she got hired by Harvard in 1992 amidst public pressure for greater faculty diversity. As Warren’s opponent Scott Brown said, “Only she and Harvard can answer any of these questions.”
And, sure enough, in a 1999 Affirmative Action Plan for an EEOC report, Harvard boasted having one female Native American professor on their law school staff. Guess who?
This is important because it goes to the heart of everything we Americans keep complaining about when it comes to electing politicians who take advantage and exploit the system.
After all, the idea is to “throw the rascals out,” not push more of them in. If Ms. Warren used this 1/32 so-called minority status to get hiring preference over someone potentially more qualified or even to help Harvard bolster its minority staff statistics, that says a lot about her honesty–and it doesn’t say anything good.
Today, the Los Angeles Times joined the Warren defense effort, criticizing those who have asked questions about this issue despite the fact that they admit no documentation turned up to prove her 1/32 Cherokee claim.
Like Tomasky, however, their position is wrong. The Fourth Estate has every right to investigate Elizabeth Warren’s claim and expose the truth about it, and they should do just that. The truth of this story will be found with more information, not less.