Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate running against Massachusetts senator Scott Brown, claimed for a decade in law-school directories that she was Native American even though her only evidence for her status was family “lore.”
After days of stonewalling, she now says she claimed minority status only in order to find others with tribal roots. “I listed myself in the directory in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am. Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it, and so I stopped checking it off,” she told reporters this week.
“Being Native American has been part of my story I guess since the day I was born,” Warren said, who has never mentioned her Native American heritage while she has been a Senate candidate. Yesterday, however, the candidate informed a Boston news station that her “high cheekbones” were testimony to her Native American background.
After a week of digging, helpful scholars at the New England Historic Genealogical Society say they have a hint that Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother may have been Cherokee. An electronic transcript of an 1894 marriage application back in Warren’s Oklahoma lists her ancestor as Cherokee. That would make Warren 1/32nd Native American. But the genealogists say the actual marriage certificate doesn’t list any Cherokee ancestry.
Noting that Warren suddenly dropped any claim to Native American ancestry as soon as she was hired at Harvard, Howie Carr of the Boston Herald concludes: “Once she’d reached the pinnacle of her trade, she ditched the fake-Indian routine. Maybe White Eyes Warren saw the smoke signals and figured out that someone was going to call her out on her ancestry. She was right.”
Warren’s supporters are urging everyone to “move along” and forget the issue, with the Boston Globe helpfully editorializing that “unless evidence emerges to suggest otherwise, Warren doesn’t need to explain herself any further.” Mindy Myers, Warren’s campaign manager, tried to turn the incident into a chance to attack Senator Brown: “Once again, the qualifications and ability of a woman are being called into question by Scott Brown, who did the same thing with the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. It’s outrageous.”
I’m sure the issue of just how much Warren is entitled to tribal nostalgia will pass. But it provides a chance for us to reflect on how deeply corrupt the “diversity sham” in America’s elite institutions has become. From Ward Churchill, the loathsome Colorado ethnic-studies professor who fraudulently claimed Native American status while smearing 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns,” to graduate students who are admitted to some programs through dubious ethnic claims, much of academia has been devalued by diversity posturing.
Last year, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color realized too many people were horning in on the ethnic gravy train through rampant “box checking.” It passed a resolution calling on law schools to accept the Native American description only from enrolled members of a tribe. Tribal decisions on who is a legitimate member are themselves often highly politicized and controversial, but at least such a requirement might deter some from making the most outrageous claims.
Of course, some reporters who have moved on from Warren’s “Indiangate” now have a new example of her hypocrisy to confront. Warren has become famous as the scourge of Wall Street and a class warrior in good standing. She has railed against giving “more tax subsidies to those who have already made it big” and attacked Senator Brown for opposing a millionaire’s tax.
But last week it came out that in 2009, the Warren household had an income of $980,000 and indeed in recent years has always been part of the top “1 percent” of income earners. But Massachusetts has long offered tax filers a choice between paying the standard 5.3 percent flat income-tax rate or a higher 5.85 percent rate. All they have to do is check a box. Despite her belief that the rich should pay more, Warren has never paid the higher rate. “I did not make a charitable contribution to the state,” she explained to reporters. Nor did she volunteer to donate much to charity.
Warren is free to believe that she has Native American ancestry, just as she is free to keep as much of her money as she is legally entitled to. But her choices in filling out forms are instructive. In checking the boxes claiming Native American status for so many years and in not checking the box to pay a higher state income-tax rate, she has revealed more than we need to know to brand her as yet another sanctimonious liberal who wants to have it all ways.
— John Fund is the national-affairs columnist for NRO.