U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking renewed heat for her past Native American heritage claims — this time from a radio host who compared her to Rachel Dolezal, a former NAACP leader who was found to be a white woman posing as black.
Warren was forced to confront her ancestry claims on New York-based radio show “The Breakfast Club” Friday morning, including the DNA test she took last fall that showed she had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations back.
“I’m not a person of color. I’m not a citizen of a tribe, and I shouldn’t have done it,” Warren said.
Co-host Charlamagne tha God asked, “If you had a chance to do it over, would you?”
Warren said, “I can’t go back,” before pivoting into key issues of her presidential bid, including canceling student loan debt and investing in historically black colleges and universities.
But Charlamagne tha God didn’t let the subject drop, questioning how long Warren knew the truth about her ancestry.
Warren responded by saying, “Tribal citizenship is an important distinction and not something I am.”
Warren was pressed on whether she’d reaped any benefits from her claims — Warren stated on her Texas state bar card registration that she was “American Indian” and long listed herself as a minority in a national law professor directory. Warren responded Friday that a Boston Globe investigation found she didn’t receive any advantages and that “nothing affected any job I ever got.” The Globe report cited denials by people involved in her hiring at Harvard Law School that her minority claim played a role. Harvard University, however, touted Warren as a minority hire in 1996.
Charlamagne tha God told Warren, “You’re kind of like the original Rachel Dolezal, a little bit.”
Warren, appearing slightly flustered, said, “This is what I learned from my family” before another host cut her a break and changed the subject.
Warren has been enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the polls recently. She’s essentially tied for third with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Philadelphia-based Democratic strategist Neil Oxman said, though she remains far behind former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Her slew of policies had largely replaced discussion of her ancestry, pundits said.
“She’s in a period where people are kind of taking a second look at her, and that’s why she’s rebounded somewhat in the polls,” Oxman said.
But Oxman said Warren has to learn to handle her ancestry better.
“This has got to be the last time she mishandles this stuff,” Oxman said. “This thing defined her, to some degree, for some period of time, and she seems luckily to have gotten away from that. You don’t want this thing to redefine yourself, and so she better figure it out.”
Instead of an apology tour, Oxman said Warren should just say “Hey, I’m proud to have whatever percentage of Indian blood I have. I’m proud to have it, and that’s it. You don’t say anything else, ever. You move away from it.”
But Massachusetts-based Democratic strategist Scott Ferson said the radio show conversation likely wouldn’t hurt Warren in the long-term.
“I would say she’s sort of 93% past it at this point,” Ferson said, adding, “I think the issue is pretty well baked for most people and the people who are going to have a problem with it are people who aren’t supportive of her for other reasons as well.”