Credit where it's due: After prematurely declaring Elizabeth Warren's Native American flap "over" in early May, the Boston Globe has joined its crosstown rival in investigating the matter. Today's edition features a front page story on the subject, packed with new information, as well as some useful context:
US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she was unaware that Harvard Law School had been promoting her purported Native American heritage until she read about it in a newspaper several weeks ago. But for at least six straight years during Warren’s tenure, Harvard University reported in federally mandated diversity statistics that it had a Native American woman in its senior ranks at the law school. According to both Harvard officials and federal guidelines, those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves.
In addition, both Harvard’s guidelines and federal regulations for the statistics lay out a specific definition of Native American that Warren does not meet. The documents suggest for the first time that either Warren or a Harvard administrator classified her repeatedly as Native American in papers prepared for the government in a way that apparently did not adhere to federal diversity guidelines. They raise further questions about Warren’s statements that she was unaware Harvard was promoting her as Native American.
So Warren had no idea Harvard was classifying her -- and, indeed, publicly touting her on multiple occasions -- as a Native American, even though "those statistics are almost always based on the way employees describe themselves"? Uh huh. Another key sentence in the excerpt above is the bit about Warren's genealogy meeting neither Harvard's nor the government's definition of 'Native American.' I suppose it's reasonable that "zero percent" might fall just shy of the legal threshold. This is an important point because some Warren apologists have argued that if she reasonably believed she is Native American because her mother told her so, or because her grandpa had high cheekbones "like all the Indians do," she's in the clear. (A third piece of circumstantial "evidence" she offered to reinforce her claim was a series of contributions to a cook book called Pow Wow Chow, a revelation that has raised plagiarism questions). Legally, family lore, facial structure and recipes don't cut it. There are actual guidelines that govern these things, and Elizabeth Warren fails those tests. In other words, it's one thing to drunkenly brag at a frat party that you come from Native American lineage; it's another thing to officially classify yourself (or allow someone to classify you) as an ethnic minority in a professional or academic setting. Warren can claim that her "Native American" status didn't affect her career at all, but that doesn't pass the smell test -- nor does her "making friends" excuse." Beyond that, the Globe also describes the climate at Harvard when she was hired:
In the years before Warren first came to Harvard Law, the school was under intense pressure to diversify its faculty. In 1990, Derrick Bell, a prominent black law professor, went on a one-man strike, taking an unpaid leave of absence to protest the fact that the law school had not yet brought a black female academic permanently on board. He was dismissed from the faculty. The same year, the Department of Labor audited Harvard’s diversity practices based on its affirmative action plan, the thick census and policy document all major employers are required to compile each year and make available to the department on request. Also in 1990, 12 students sued the law school, alleging it discriminated against academic job applicants on the basis of race and gender.
To suggest that the timing and effects of Warren's ethnicity listing were merely propitious strains credulity. Contacted by the Globe, "the Warren campaign declined Thursday to answer the Globe’s specific questions about the documents." Gosh, I wonder why. The candidate herself is stonewalling, too. Watch this ugly exchange with a local reporter:
Allahpundit gets a kick out of Warren claiming that she has "made all the facts clear." That statement is roughly 0/32 true:
Finally, Warren said, “I am proud of my family and I am proud of my heritage.”
Hiller followed up: “Does it include an Indian background?”
Warren replied, “Yes.”
“How do you know that?” Hiller asked.
Warren responded, “Because my mother told me so. This is how I live. My mother, my grandmother, my family. This is my family. Scott Brown has launched attacks on my family. I am not backing off from my family.”
No, Scott Brown has not "launched attacks" on Warren's family. What a desperate assertion. He has asked her to explain why she described her family for years as Native American, when she cannot provide any proof to that effect. Don't lie about your ethnicity year after year as you climb a career ladder. Seems like a pretty reasonable standard, no? Democrats are eagerly pointing to a new Suffolk University poll that shows Brown's lead down to just 1 point, suggesting that the faux Native American controversy hasn't hurt Warren at all. A few nuggets from that survey:
Seventy-two percent of likely voters were aware of the recent controversy concerning Elizabeth Warren’s heritage. Of those, 49 percent said Warren was telling the truth about being part Native American; 28 percent said she was not telling the truth; and 23 percent weren’t sure. Meanwhile, 41 percent said they believed that Elizabeth Warren benefited by listing herself as a minority, while 45 percent said she did not benefit. Sixty-nine percent of likely voters said that Warren’s Native American heritage listing is not a significant story, while 27 percent said that it is…
This is a non-story to most Massachusetts voters. For now. But I think WaPo's The Fix has it right: This is a slow-drip scandal (apparently with more "shoes to drop") that won't seem to go away. Nearly half of those surveyed said they think Warren's self-identification helped her professionally, even as 49 percent say they believe her root claim. As stories like this continue to pile up, and Warren refuses to answer basic questions, the public may become more skeptical of her veracity. In any case, this is not the story she wants to be talking about as voters form impressions of her. And histrionics about "attacks" on her family won't a single person who doesn't want to be fooled.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography