Senate contender Warren denies using ethnicity for unfair gain

BOSTON Thu May 31, 2012 6:27pm EDT

Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, gestures as she testifies at a hearing about oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, gestures as she testifies at a hearing about oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has acknowledged for the first time she told two prestigious law schools she had a Native American heritage but disputed suggestions that she used her ethnicity to help gain employment at the universities.

The Democrat later lashed out at Republican Scott Brown, who she is expected to face in the tight race for the U.S. Senate seat for Massachusetts in November, for impugning her parents' truthfulness on the topic of her lineage.

"I let people know about my Native American heritage in a national directory of law school personnel. At some point after they hired me, I also provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard," Warren said in an email to supporters on Thursday.

A similar statement was published late on Wednesday by the Boston Globe.

The Native American issue has dogged the Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration official for weeks, and given Brown a way to challenge Warren's integrity.

When the issue surfaced in April, Warren said she only learned that Harvard counted her as a minority hire in the 1990s when she read a report in the Boston Herald.

"Scott Brown also claims I got special breaks because of my background. That's not true," Warren said.

Warren, 62, hails from Oklahoma, a Great Plains state which has among the highest proportion of people with Native American ethnicity in the United States. She has said her Native American heritage was part of her family's oral history.

"My mother, grandmother, and aunts were open about my family's Native American heritage, and I never had any reason to doubt them," Warren told supporters.

"My heritage is a part of who I am - and I am proud of it."

The Warren campaign has said she is 1/32nd Cherokee, one of Oklahoma's largest Native American tribes. That would be the equivalent of having a Cherokee among her great-great-great grandparents.

She does not have an official affiliation with a Native American tribe or community but contributed to a 1984 cookbook, "Pow Wow Chow," published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Speaking to reporters in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Thursday, Brown suggested Warren's family might have been exaggerating. "My mom and dad have told me a lot of things too, but they're not always true," Brown said.

Warren fired back. "Brown's comments about my parents are totally out of line. I resent him questioning their honesty. My mother and father are not here to defend themselves and should be off limits."

Opinion polls have shown a tight race between Warren, a liberal consumer advocate, and Brown, the centrist Republican who in 2010 won the Senate seat held by the late Edward Kennedy, a stalwart of the Democratic Party for more than four decades.

Democrats see the Massachusetts seat as a prime target to pick up in November as the party attempts to hold onto its slim Senate majority.

Democrats have a 51-47 advantage over Republicans in the 100-seat Senate, with two independents, but are defending more than 20 seats against Republican challengers in November, while Republicans are defending only about half that many.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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Comments (5)
NewsDebbie wrote:
I guess Brown will use anything to gain votes. Last time he was the guy in the pick up truck. This time its his opponents claimed ancestry.

May 31, 2012 8:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
A very quick way of avoiding this issue in the future is the abolition of Affirmative Action. She’s having a tough time is a heavily Dem state. That speaks to the public perception of her actual character.

Jun 01, 2012 11:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
ARJTurgot2: “She’s having a tough time is a heavily Dem state. That speaks to the public perception of her actual character.”

No, ARJTurgot. That speaks to the power of money and the advantage in trading legislative favors for cash with the deep pockets of Wall Street, as Brown does. The facts back this up. 93% of candidates who outspend their opponents win their elections. There’s a reason Republicans kowtow to the wealthy plutocrats at the expense of everyone else. They have all the money and money wins elections. And the plutocrats are taking greater and greater advantage of that, thanks to the Republican-appointed Supreme Court Justices and their Citizens United ruling.

Elizabeth Warren wants the chance to fight for the American Middle Class. The American Middle Class desperately needs someone in its corner. Scott Brown, on the other hand, is known as “Wall Street’s favorite Senator,” and there’s a reason for that. He’s been in office since the beginning of 2010. Since 2010 who has done better, Wall Street or the Middle Class? Let me reiterate my point: the American Middle Class needs someone to fight for them in the US Senate. They won’t get that from Scott Brown, but they will with Elizabeth Warren. And with Scott Brown gone, Wall Street certainly won’t be hurting for surrogates in Congress. Don’t the American people count for ANYTHING anymore? Why this sudden disdain for average Americans on the part of the GOP and their wealthy benefactors?

Jun 01, 2012 2:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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