Brown presses Warren on ethnicity issue in Massachusetts Senate debate

BOSTON Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:28am EDT

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown slammed Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren's claim she is part Cherokee as they squared off in a televised debate on Thursday in one of the country's most closely watched U.S. Senate races.

Brown called on Warren, a high-profile liberal supporter of President Barack Obama, to release her personnel records from Harvard University to prove she did not gain any unfair advantage as an ethnic minority when the college hired her in the 1990s.

Warren is trying to regain a seat - which Brown won by an upset in 2010 in a special election following the death of Democratic liberal stalwart Edward Kennedy - that would help the Democrats retain their slim majority in the U.S. Senate.

Accusations that Warren may have received special breaks because she claimed Cherokee ancestry first surfaced in April, dogging the Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration official and giving Brown a way to challenge her integrity.

"As you know ... Professor Warren has claimed she is a Native American, a person of color. As you can see, she is not," Brown said in their first of four TV debates before the November 6 election.

Brown characterized Warren as being disingenuous about her heritage.

"I didn't get an advantage because of my background," Warren replied. "I can't change who I am. I am who I am."

Warren said she was told as a child that her mother had Native American roots. "When I was growing up, these are the stories I knew about my heritage," Warren said. "I never asked anybody for any documentation. I don't know any kid who did."

Inside the studios of WBZ-TV in Boston, Brown kept pressing the issue, saying all she needed to do was to release her personnel records to show what box she checked for describing her heritage.


Brown's salvo came on the heels of two polls released this week that gave the lead in the race to Warren, chief architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established after Wall Street banks buckled during the 2008 financial crisis.

She got a political bounce from a fiery speech at the Democratic National Convention, while women voters continue to favor her over Brown by a comfortable margin, said Peter Ubertaccio, chairman of Stonehill College's political science and international studies department.

"Republicans had no bounce from the GOP convention and their brand continues to be very unpopular here," Ubertaccio said.

Brown has been working to put distance between himself and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

He has rejected Romney's comment that disparaged 47 percent of Americans as victims reliant on federal aid. Romney made his remark in May at a private fundraiser in Florida. A secretly recorded video of the fundraiser surfaced on Monday

During the debate, Warren cast herself as a champion of the working class and criticized Brown for voting against three jobs bills in a row in the Senate.

"I want to go to Washington to fight for jobs," she said.

Known for his pickup truck, good looks and moderate views, Brown caught Massachusetts' Democratic machine napping when he emerged from obscurity to beat Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, in the 2010 special election.

Ubertaccio said Brown's attack on Warren over the ethnic heritage issue was a "dangerous" move.

"Voters really moved by that are very likely already with him," Ubertaccio said.

(Editing By Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (6)
flashrooster wrote:
I thought it was a good debate and both candidates did well. Personally, I though Brown’s obsession with Warren and the ethnicity issue made Brown look childish. That’s exactly the kind of crap people are tired of. There are important issues that must be dealt with. Brown did a decent job of running from the Republican platform, repeatedly pointing out the many times he voted with Democrats, and reiterated his support for abortion rights, but Warren wisely reminded voters at the end of the debate that their Senate race could determine which party controls the Senate. She was smart to point out that the Republican senator who would be in charge of the committee overseeing the EPA believes that global warming is a hoax. She used the fact that the people of Massachusetts are very environmentally conscious to her advantage. It’s an argument Scott Brown can’t refute. After all, he is a Republican and voting for Scott Brown is a vote for the Republican agenda.

Sep 20, 2012 11:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Fishrl wrote:
That’s it? All you report of the debate was Brown’s cheap shot on Warren over her ethnicity? Sorry. Fail.

Sep 21, 2012 9:56am EDT  --  Report as abuse
QuidProQuo wrote:
Warren is a comrade of Obama’s radical fringe party. It was pitiful watching her do nothing more that repeat herself and the uber left manifesto over and over again. Pick a side! It’s about control! Bow before the federal government and throw your money at their feet! Talk about one brainwashed little puppet. She choked bad. Literally. Choked on just trying to say the word “analysis”. She lives in some ivory tower world. I really have no respect for uber intellectuals that are great at writing long winded dissertations but when it comes time for dialogue and discorse, they just pontificate.
Brown was upfront, prepared, genuine and without malice. Sure he zinged her, but he zinged her with class. The mere idea of a national manifesto based on allowing the government to abuse taxpayers more just reiterates the fact that a left wing radical agenda is not in the best interest of our Nation as a whole. Sorry, I’m voting for the former JAG Colonel who knows what being a public servant is all about. Warren is in it for POWER! To make sure Americans pick a side and then fight in the streets as a divided country. I’m not picking any sides nor am I going to let that sick approach be the way I live. It’s not about power or control or an army of comrades starting societal wars on the streets of our nation. You can take that twisted manifesto and shove it.

Sep 21, 2012 10:48am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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