Warren: My parents had to elope because my mother was 1/16th Cherokee, or something; Update: A religious wedding for the elopement?

posted at 12:41 pm on June 1, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

How worried has Elizabeth Warren become over the controversy surrounding her self-identification as a Native American at Penn and Harvard Law, both of which promoted her as an example of diversity?  At the beginning of the week, the Democratic Senate hopeful told her critics that she wouldn’t answer any more questions about the subject.  By yesterday, though, she picked up the phone and called one of those critics, the Boston Globe’s Brian McGrory, to explain herself further — and to tell an odd story about her parents’ courtship:

Warren gave far and away her most elaborate and emotional responses to questions over why she still believes she has Native American heritage, despite a lack of documented evidence. She revealed that her parents eloped because of tensions between their two families over her mother’s ancestry.

Her family is not known to have an official affiliation or any registration with an Indian tribe, and any sparse indications that a great-great-great grandmother had Cherokee blood would fall short of federal guidelines that would grant Warren minority status. Warren was born and raised in Oklahoma.

“In the 1930s, when my parents got married, these were hard issues,’’ Warren said. “My father’s family so objected to my mother’s Native American heritage that my mother told me they had to elope.

“As kids, my brothers and I knew about that. We knew about the differences between our two families. And we knew how important my mother’s heritage was to her. This was real in my life. I can’t deny my heritage. I can’t and I won’t. That would be denying who my mother was, who my family was, how we lived, and I won’t do it.’’

Her claim to Cherokee ancestry has been that she has 1/32nd Native American ancestry.  Are we to believe that her father’s family objected to a marriage between their son and a woman who was 15/16ths not Native American?  To a woman who never bothered to claim membership in a Cherokee nation, and whose family never did either, according to Cherokee tribal authorities? That sounds more like desperation than “family lore.”

Twila Barnes, who has organized the protests against Warren and has challenged Warren on her genealogical claims, told Laura Ingraham yesterday that she and her fellow Cherokees have had enough of people claiming to have Cherokee heritage without tribal identification (via the Weekly Standard):

But when you’re Cherokee you grow up and you hear every single day somebody else saying they’re Cherokee or they have a great, great grandma who is a Cherokee princess, and it’s a real issue for the Cherokee people, all the people who claim they have an ancestry when they have no basis for that. It’s usually just a fictitious story somewhere that was invented, and when you do the genealogy it’s not there. And being Cherokee is not a race of people. It’s a nation of people. And we descend from a group of people who always stay with their nation.

Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy has been following the Warren controversy, and plans to investigate this claim:

Last night, in a bizarre interview with the Boston Globe, Elizabeth Warren tripled down on her Native American heritage claims, despite extensive debunking of her previous doubling down on those claims and thoroughly documented debunking of her original claims in excruciating detail here at Breitbart News. …

Ms. Warren’s parents, Donald Herring (1911-1997) and Pauline Reed (1912-1995), were married in Oklahoma some time before 1937. To date, this is the first time that Ms. Warren has offered the story that they were forced to elope because her father’s family so objected to her mother’s Native American heritage. Breitbart News is searching for evidence to corroborate what appears to be Ms. Warren’s bold claim about the circumstances of her parents’ marriage.

It’s possible that the Herrings eloped, although it seems very unlikely that they had to do so over unusually high cheekbones.  It’s also possible that Warren does have some Native American heritage.  But the claims keep getting more and more fantastic, with the lack of substantiation becoming clearer and clearer.  It also doesn’t address the central question of why Warren identified herself as Native American in a professional context and allowed Harvard Law to celebrate her as a “woman of color” when she made no attempt to identify otherwise with the Cherokee nation and clearly had never felt any professional or economic disadvantage over that supposed heritage.  In that sense, she provided false cover for Harvard Law to claim a diversity that clearly didn’t exist at the time in their faculty.

Update: Of course, maybe Warren prefers this topic than the issue reported over at the Boston Herald.  Howie Carr has a few words for the self-described intellectual inspiration for the Occupy movement about her profits on foreclosure flips:

Granny wrote in 2000 that foreclosure sales “are notorious for fetching low prices.” And boy, would she know.

Here’s a foreclosed property she picked up in Oklahoma City at 2123 NW 14th St. for $4,000 in 1993. She transferred it to her brother and his wife in March 2004 and they sold it for $30,000 in February 2006.

Those kinds of returns make you a 1 percenter like Granny. That, and cashing in on a racial spoils system you have no business taking advantage of.

The prior owners of the $4,000 house were Richard and Shelley Walter, who had a son who served as a Marine in Iraq. I wonder if they’ve read Granny’s impassioned attacks on foreclosures: “Foreclosure rates are skyrocketing. Is it a civil right to lose that home in a sheriff’s auction?”

It is if Granny Warren’s picking up some good stuff cheap, a la Bain Capital. Let’s move on to another foreclosure, this one on 500 NW 18th St. in her hometown. She’s listed as the mortgagee on a $55,000 mortgage taken out by her brother John in 1992.

In 1998, John Herring sold the foreclosed house for $140,000.

The people who lost their home this time to greedy Granny were D.L. and Sue Trent. At least they can take solace in the fact that the former Elizabeth “Red” Herring feels their pain: “Thus foreclosures harm other homeowners both by encouraging additional foreclosures by reducing home sale prices, while decreased property values hurt local businesses and reduce state and local tax revenues.”

Won’t be too much longer before we start seeing Vicki Kennedy raising her public profile, I suspect …

Update II: Breitbart claims to have found the marriage certificate of Donald Herring and Pauline Reed, Warren’s parents, which shows that the eloping couple had a church religious wedding not too far from home:

Breitbart News has obtained a copy of what it believes to be Warrens’ parents’ marriage certificate from Hughes County, Oklahoma, dated January 4, 1932. The marriage took place in Holdenville, Oklahoma, the county seat, located approximately 14 miles from Wetumpka, Oklahoma, which both the 21-year-old groom, Donald J. Herring, and 19-year-old bride, Pauline Reed, declared as their residence. …

According to the document, the marriage was performed by Sidney H. Babcock, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church South of Holdensville, Oklahoma.

Typically, couples that elope do not marry in a church, or in their place of residence.

Update III: Michael Leahy e-mails me to say that they’re reporting just that a pastor married them, not that they got married in a church — although Breitbart is investigating to see if that’s the case.


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