After Elizabeth Warren appeared at a rally with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump rounded up his best and brightest supporters. From that group of luminaries, he plucked former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown to revive old attacks about Warren’s debunked claims of Native American ancestry.
“She’s not Native American, she’s not 1/32nd, she has no Native American background, except for what her family told her,” Brown told reporters on a Trump campaign call organized by the Republican National Committee. During the call, which happened hours after the Warren/Clinton rally, Brown licked four-year-old wounds and reiterated a popular line of attack he pursued in his unsuccessful Senate race against Warren in 2012. During that race, Brown—a man of centerfolds, trucks, and the people—argued that Warren only received her appointments at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania because she lied about her ancestry.
In the past, Warren said that her family was of Cherokee and Delaware descent, an assertion that was very incorrect. As the Washington Post diplomatically phrases it, “four years ago, Warren struggled for a while with the storyline.”
“I still have a picture on my mantle at home,” she explained at one point, “and it’s a picture of my mother’s dad, a picture of my grandfather, and my Aunt Bee has walked by that picture at least a thousand times, remarked that her father, my poppa, had high cheekbones, like all of the Indians do.”
Warren’s story was not good, but Brown’s renewed claims that an unqualified Warren was a minority hire have some pretty clear overtones about the perception of qualifications in the era of affirmative action. Today, Brown said:
“The easy answer, as you all know, is that Harvard and Penn can release those records, she can authorize the release of those records, she can take a DNA test, she can release the records herself. There’s never been any effort.”
Brown is, of course, categorically wrong. There has been quite a bit of effort to track down whether or not Warren “checked the box” (a magical hiring box, apparently, that removes historic barriers to elite institutions). In 2012, both investigations by the Washington Post and the Boston Globe found that Brown was lying when he said in a debate that year that Warren gained an unfair advantage when she “checked the box claiming she was Native American.” Via the Post:
But there is no proof that she ever marked a form to tell the schools about her heritage, nor is there any public evidence that the universities knew about her lineage before hiring her.
[Brown’s] debate comments also suggest Warren actively applied for positions with Harvard and Penn, but the evidence suggests the schools recruited her because of her groundbreaking research and writings on bankruptcy. Harvard, in fact, did not give up on her after she first turned down a tenured position with the university.
But since reviving the “Fauxcahontas” line of attack seems to be a cornerstone of the Trump campaign, Brown continued to dig in, calling Warren’s false ancestry claims “a reverse form of racism.” CNN notes that Brown has become a “prominent” surrogate for Trump, so we’ll ostensibly get to hear about Warren’s “box checking” for the next few months. Since moving to New Hampshire in 2014 and promptly losing a Senate race there, Brown probably has nothing better to do.
It’s likely also a great distraction from Trump’s refusal to share his tax returns.
Image via AP.