It must be nice to be a liberal Democrat. Unless you've fathered a child with a campaign staffer while cheating on your cancer-stricken wife, or repeatedly lied about accidentally tweeting photos of your genitals to coeds, the media generally has your back. Journalists overwhelmingly support Democrats, yet many delude themselves about their own capacity for objectivity. What would be a "deeply troubling" story if its subject were a conservative magically transforms into a silly and petty distraction, borne of our "divisive politics," if a Democrat happens to be in trouble. To wit: Lefty anti-capitalist superhero Elizabeth Warren is locked in a dogfight with Scott Brown over a Senate seat in Massachusetts. Warren, a multimillionaire who still thinks she's part of America's '99 percent,' is raking in eye-popping levels of political donations -- yet she's been unable to build any sort of stable lead over Brown, even in a deep blue state. Beyond suffering from a likeability deficit, part of Warren's problem is a nagging issue of trustworthiness, exacerbated by the ongoing controversy over her ethnic heritage. Dan wrote about the kerfuffle yesterday.
In short, Warren listed herself as a racial ethnic minority in a directory of law professors between 1986 and 1995. The profile identified her as a Native American. During that time span, she taught at the University of Texas, Penn, and then Harvard. Indeed, Harvard twice touted her as an ethnic minority, even though her former colleagues now insist that her heritage played no role whatsoever in her hiring or professional development. (One lawyer who was at Harvard disputes the likelihood of that claim, based on the university's "diversity" binge during the period in question). Pressed by the Brown campaign about the authenticity of her Native American background, Warren's campaign has delivered an incoherent response. First, they cried sexism. Then they falsely stated that Warren had never cited her heritage in a professional setting, and that both of the candidates' maternal grandparents were of Native American descent. Now, a genealogist has dug up evidence suggesting that Warren does, in fact, have some Cherokee roots. One of her great, great, great grandmothers is listed as a member of the tribe, making Warren 1/32 Cherokee. In light of the minor epidemic of ethic fraud in academia, and the Warren's campaign's indignant and shifting evasions, one might think the press might develop some interest in the story. After all, the nation became acquainted with Christine O'Donnell's years-old witchcraft dabbling in 2010. Alas, the MSM is rushing to cover this dust-up -- but mostly to declare it over. Nothing to see here, editorializes the Boston Globe:
Unless evidence emerges to suggest otherwise, Warren doesn’t need to explain herself any further. There’s nothing untoward about citing one’s actual ancestry in a professional directory. Warren, like everyone else, has a right to her own background. It’s only in the freighted world of academic diversity that these questions become more complicated. As of now, the only apologizing should be done by Harvard Law School.
The Globe's editors credulously swallow Harvard's assurances that race and ethnicity never came up during Warren's hiring process. That may (or may not) be the case -- but then why did Warren classify herself as a Native American in the first place? And why did she suddenly -- and, as of now, without explanation -- abandon the label in 1995? We're to believe that professional advancement had absolutely nothing to do with it? That's possible, I suppose, but I don't think it's a great stretch to at least wonder if Warren may have been exploiting her family's distant identity to help climb the diversity-obsessed ivory tower. The Globe suggests that Warren is entitled to cite her "actual ancestry." Fair enough, but what is the threshold for legitimate claims on minority status? As I understand it, race-based affirmative action is designed to help traditionally underprivileged communities gain access to institutions of higher learning. It also purports to enrich campus environments, thanks to the aforementioned students' unique perspectives and cultural experiences. Granting, for the sake of argument, that these are legitimate ends, would Warren satisfy either stated goal of affirmative action? And if she were not seeking any sort of advantage, why would she bother calling herself Native American at all, then quietly remove the designation years later? The Washington Post doesn't seem interested in any of these questions:
The Harvard Law professor challenging Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown is facing increasing scrutiny over use of Native American heritage in her legal career. But it’s not Warren’s family tree that’s really at issue — it’s her ability to fight back ... The fact that this story has dribbled on for days shows how aggressive Brown has been, and raises questions about Warren’s ability to respond in kind ... The most recent polling shows a dead heat in the race, with about a third of the crucial conservative and moderate Democrats still undecided. If Brown successfully defines Warren as untruthful and hypocritical while remaining well-liked himself, it could go a long way.
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