The latest twist in the winding saga of Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry forced the Cambridge Democrat on Thursday to do what she should have done when the Herald first broke the story in 2012: apologize.
Instead, Warren became a master of unforced campaign errors — dodging, weaving and backtracking on an issue that continued to haunt her because she refused to face it head on.
Even now, Warren’s apology is limited. She’s sorry she took a DNA test and announced the results as proof that she is part Native American.
“I’m just gonna put it all out there,” she told Iowa voters earlier this month following years of unanswered questions and relentless taunts from President Trump.
But Warren’s attempts to “put it all out there” have meant different things at different times.
When I first asked Warren about her heritage claim in 2012, she said she had no idea Harvard Law School was reporting her as a minority hire.
“I think I first learned about it when I saw it on the front page of the Herald,” she said.
She also claimed she had never listed herself as a Native American or a minority on any other forms or applications.
Both statements were false. She had listed herself as a minority on the Association of American Law Schools directory starting in 1986 and ending in 1994. The directory was used at the time as a hiring tool and a reference to find law professors.
“I listed myself (in the) directory in the hopes that might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something, with people who are like I am,” was Warren’s explanation.
The Oklahoma native also later admitted she had informed Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania that she was Native American.
This was the way team Warren continued to address the story — releasing information in drips that never fully answered the question of whether Warren benefited from her minority status or whether she truly believed she should be identified as a minority hire.
Anyone asking was met with repeated variations of her stock answer: “I’m very proud of my heritage.”
President Trump’s merciless mockery and Warren’s own growing presidential ambitions eventually prompted her to address the issue in 2018. The Boston Globe published a nearly 6,000-word story that attempted to show that Warren’s claim of Native American status didn’t boost her career.
But the story also included Warren’s first stab at an apology in her ever-evolving history — a history and an apology that likely will continue to evolve with her anticipated announcement next week that she is making her presidential run official.
“I wish that I had been more mindful of the distinction between heritage and tribal citizenship,” Warren told the Globe then. “Only the tribes can determine tribal citizenship and I respect their right. That’s why now I don’t list myself here in the Senate as Native American.”
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