In a new wrinkle to the Elizabeth Warren Native American heritage controversy, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., today released his most direct call for his challenger to clarify the situation.
“Serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of Elizabeth Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry and whether it was appropriate for her to assume minority status as a college professor,” Brown said in a statement released this afternoon. “Her changing stories, contradictions and refusal to answer legitimate questions have cast doubt on her credibility and called into question the diversity practices at Harvard.
“The best way to satisfy these questions is for Elizabeth Warren to authorize the release of her law school applications and all personnel files from the various universities where she has taught.”
Warren, a former Harvard Law professor and advisor to the Obama administration, is challenging Brown for a U.S. Senate seat this November. She was also previously a professor at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania.
Questions have been raised in the Native American community and in the political world over whether it was appropriate for her to claim minority status when she was a professor, yet at the time she had no genealogical evidence and she was not an enrolled tribal citizen.
Native scholars have also questioned whether her promotion as Native by Harvard officials in the mid-1990s may have played a role in preventing Native candidates who are more entrenched in Indian law and issues from being hired at the prestigious university.
Since the questions began to be raised in late April, genealogists have claimed to find evidence indicating that Warren may be as much as 1/32nd Cherokee, but that revelation has not calmed the storm because it is her past actions that are being examined.
Warren has been perceived in the mainstream press to have thus far poorly handled her response to Brown’s allegations, and on May 2 she recalled a story to reporters about a family member saying all Indians have high cheekbones, which has angered some Indians and generated mockery from some conservatives.
Brown said in his statement that he has “released hundreds of pages of confidential employment records relating to my 32-year career in the National Guard, and I would encourage Professor Warren to do the same with respect to her personnel records and previous applications.”
Brown concluded: “As candidates for high public office, we have a duty to be transparent and open and not hide behind a wall of silence in the midst of public controversy.”
Warren campaign officials quickly responded that they believe Brown is attempting to distract the voting public from more important issues.
“Once again, Republican Senator Brown is shamelessly attempting to divert attention from his record on the issues that really matter in this election, like the cost of student loans,” Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney, said in a responding statement. “Minutes after Scott Brown voted with his Republican party to double interest rates on student loans, he ridiculously attacked Elizabeth Warren with questions that have already been answered.”
Still, questions do linger about the way Warren handled her past understanding of her heritage, and the Warren campaign has thus far not responded to requests from Indian Country Today Media Network for clarification.