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The fake Elizabeth Warren scandal


The parallels here with the Clinton e-mail nonsense are striking, except this “scandal” is even phonier, having no basis in any valid concern about anything:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her as she prepares to formally announce a presidential bid.

Her comments more fully explain the regret she expressed last week to the chief of the Cherokee Nation, the first time she’s said she was sorry for claiming American Indian heritage.

The private apology was earlier reported as focusing more narrowly on a DNA test she took to demonstrate her purported heritage, a move that prompted a ferocious backlash even from many allies. Warren will be vying to lead a party that has become far more mindful of nonwhite voters and their objections to misuse of their culture.

“I can’t go back,” Warren said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”

Warren has been trying for the past year to get past the lingering controversy over her past assertion that she is Native American.

In addition to the DNA test, she released employment documents over the summer to show she didn’t use ethnicity to further her career. And in a speech a year ago she addressed her decision to call herself a Native American, though she didn’t offer the apology that some wanted at the time.

But as Warren undergoes increased scrutiny as a presidential candidate, additional documents could surface to keep the issue alive.

Using an open records request during a general inquiry, for example, The Post obtained Warren’s registration card for the State Bar of Texas, providing a previously undisclosed example of Warren identifying as an “American Indian.”

Warren filled out the card by hand in neat blue ink and signed it. Dated April 1986, it is the first document to surface showing Warren making the claim in her own handwriting. Her office didn’t dispute its authenticity.

Now to be perfectly clear, as Richard Nixon used to say, there would be a real issue here if there was any evidence that Warren had used her self-identification as a Native person between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s to advance her career, which at the time was being a law professor.

But not only is there no evidence that she did: There is copious documentary evidence proving that she didn’t do this.  As the Boston Globe revealed last fall, nobody at any of the four law schools that hired Warren who played any role in those hiring decisions thought of her as anything but a white woman when they made those decisions, because Warren never presented as anything but a white woman to those institutions in the course of those various hiring processes.

Again, there is no doubt about this.  The only “affirmative action” boost Warren got, to the extent she ever got one, was because she was a woman, at a time when there were very few women law professors (In 1993, when Harvard offered her a job, only seven of the 62 tenured members of the HLS faculty were women, and as recently as the mid-1970s the total number of women who had ever taught on the tenure-track faculty at HLS was zero.  Harvard Law School didn’t even admit women students until 1950).

It’s also clear from this reporting that Warren identified for a time as a Native person for complex psychological and emotional reasons, related to a complicated family history.  That identification, in other words, was the exact opposite of some sort of cynical ploy by which she claimed to be a racial or ethnic minority in order to advance her career (which again, it’s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt she never did).

Nobody in academia ever considered Elizabeth Warren to be anything but a white woman, except for a few bureaucrats who used her bureaucratically ambiguous ethnic status to make exaggerated diversity claims for a very short time.  Warren never got a job because someone thought she was Native American, because nobody ever thought this.  For the same reason, no ethnic minority was ever denied a job because of Warren’s purported non-white status, because no one in a position to make any decisions about hiring people at any law school at which Warren was employed ever considered her anything but white.

This a completely fake issue on every level.

Of course that fact isn’t going to stop the media from treating it as “troubling,” and “lingering,” and “unresolved,” because that’s how they do, but that’s on them, not on Elizabeth Warren.

Now you can criticize Warren for how she has handled this totally fabricated “controversy.” Taking a DNA test was a mistake.  Warren has come to the same conclusion, and has apologized to the relevant parties for whatever offense she may have given by doing so.

Personally, I’m undecided about who to support in the Democratic primary process, but it’s infuriating that yet another completely fake non-scandal is being ginned up to undermine a woman who had to leap incredibly high barriers at every step of the way in her career to get to where she’s gotten. And yes I recognize the pragmatic arguments — you can’t just ignore “it” because “it’s out there” blah blah blah — but it’s disgusting that this sort of baseless smear campaign may end up derailing Warren’s presidential hopes.

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