Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said on NBC’s Meet the Press last weekend that a former professor sexually harassed her when she was a young law professor at the University of Houston. This is the same professor, who died in 1997, that she eulogized at his funeral, joking about his fondness for her and their interactions.
“Yes, I have a ‘me, too’ story too,” Warren said. “I was a baby law professor and so excited to have my first real teaching job. And there was this senior faculty member who, you know, would tell dirty jokes and make comments about my appearance.”
“And one day he asked me if I would stop by his office, which I didn’t think much about,” Warren said. “And I did. And he slammed the door and lunged for me.”
“It was like a bad cartoon,” Warren said. “He’s chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me.”
“And I kept saying, ‘You don’t want to do this. You don’t want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don’t do this,” Warren said. “And trying to talk calmly. And at the same time, what was flickering through my brain is, ‘If he gets hold of me, I’m going to punch him right in the face.’”
Warren also posted on Facebook about her “me too” experience.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” Warren wrote. #MeToo
But media reports reveal that Warren’s opinion of the late Professor Eugene Smith has changed over the years.
The Boston Globe reported this week that Warren recounted the same incident in a “more light-hearted manner” at a memorial service after the professor’s death 20 years ago.
“During the service after his death in 1997, Warren spoke fondly of law professor Eugene Smith and told the gathered mourners she was laughing as Smith chased her around his desk, according to a colleague’s memoir,” the Globe reported, referring to a book written by retired professor John Mixon.
But the Globe spoke with Warren, who said her perspective of what took place has changed over the years.
“It was 20 years later, and he didn’t have power over me anymore,” said Warren, who was at that time a Harvard law professor.
The Globe inquired about the contrast between the two accounts:
She did not directly answer when asked if she spoke fondly of Smith at his memorial or if she told mourners she was laughing as Smith tried to grab her in his office.
“I made it clear that I was just fine,” Warren said.
The Globe described Warren’s changed narrative as an “evolution” arrived at “amid changing attitudes about harassment and increasing empowerment of women to speak up.”
Warner’s colleague also told the Globe his written account about Warren and Smith may not have been accurate.
“I may have been wrong saying she was laughing,” Mixon told the Globe.
The paper also reported that Warren failed to mention on Meet The Press that Smith was severely disabled by polio and was in a wheelchair because of his disability.
Mixon described Smith’s disability this way:
Gene Smith was lucky to be alive. Shortly before the Salk vaccine made polio history, Gene contracted the disease in his late teens. He was among the polio victims to survive by forced breathing in an iron lung.
The New Boston Post reported:
According to Mixon, Smith, a teenager at the time of the disease’s onset, “eventually gained enough strength to leave the iron lung” but “walked like a crab, swinging his almost useless arms to keep his balance.”
Mixon recalled that Smith, born in 1933, would struggle to reach his second-floor bedroom, “without realizing he was weakening his muscles and hastening the onset of post-polio syndrome which eventually disabled him entirely, even from riding around in his electric cart.”