Elizabeth Warren camp: It's kind of sexist for Scott Brown to ask if she's lying about being Native American

If the presidential election can come down to whether it’s more offensive to eat dogs or put one in a kennel on top of your car, I guess it’s fair for a Senate election to come down to whether Elizabeth Warren is 1/10,000th Cherokee.

The newest front in the “war on women,” apparently: Calling a female pol out on her self-serving B.S.

Despite claiming she never used her Native American heritage when applying for a job, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign admitted last night the Democrat listed her minority status in professional directories for years when she taught at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania…

The Herald reported Friday that embattled Harvard Law School officials touted Warren’s Native American heritage — she reportedly has ancestors from the Cherokee and Delaware tribes — as proof of the faculty’s diversity…

Mindy Myers, Warren’s campaign manager, had this to say today:

“If Scott Brown has questions about Elizabeth Warren’s well-known qualifications — from her high marks as a teacher to her nationally recognized work on bankruptcy and the pressures on middle class families – he ought to ask them directly instead of hiding behind the nasty insinuations of his campaign and trying to score political points. Once again, the qualifications and ability of a woman are being called into question by Scott Brown who did the same thing with the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. It’s outrageous.”

It’s not so much a story about Warren’s heritage, in other words, as whether she lied about it in order to boost her appeal to Harvard as a solution to their diversity problem. According to her campaign, Charles Fried helped recruit her to the school and swears that her ancestry played no part, by which I assume he means that Warren didn’t bring it up in interviews, etc. Fair enough, but as the Herald notes, she was listed as a minority professor in the Association of American Law Schools’ annual directory from 1986 to 1995. She joined Harvard Law as a visiting professor in 1992 and became a full-time prof there in 1995, which means she was still being listed as a minority for a few years while she was there. Did whoever hired her know about that? Via Ace, David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy finds another curiosity:

The old AALS Directory of Faculty guides are online (through academic libraries) at Hein Online. The directories starting listing minority faculty in an appendix in 1986. There’s Elizabeth Warren, listed as a professor at Texas. I spot-checked three additional directories from when she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, including 1995-96, the year Harvard offered her a position. Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren, Elizabeth Warren.

So, we know one thing with almost 100% certainty: Elizabeth Warren identified herself as a minority law professor. We know something else with 90%+ certainty: (at least some) folks at Harvard were almost certainly aware that she identified as a minority law professor, though they may not have known which ethnic group she claimed to be belong to, and it may not have played any role in her hiring.

But it gets even more interesting: once Warren joined the Harvard faculty, she dropped off the list of minority law faculty. Now that’s passing strange. When the AALS directory form came around before Warren arrived at Harvard, she was proud enough of her Native American ancestry to ask that she be listed among the minority law professors. (Or, in the unlikely even that she just allowed law school administrators to fill out the forms for her without reviewing them, they were aware that she claimed such ancestry, and she didn’t object when she was listed.) Once she arrived at Harvard, however, she no longer chose to be listed as a minority law professor.

Verrrrrry curious. I’m not hung up on the fact that she apparently can’t produce any documents attesting to her ancestry; that’s not unusual when it comes to genealogy, although it does raise the question of what proof is sufficient to justify claiming minority status. (Follow the link to Bernstein’s post and read down for more on that.) The fact that her name disappeared from the minority listings in the AALS directory is interesting, though. Three possibilities. One: She was lying all along and dropped the charade once her mission of getting a job at Harvard had been accomplished. Two: She sincerely thought she had Native American ancestry but then learned something in 1995 that convinced her otherwise, so she quietly dropped minority status. In that case, though, why is she claiming it now when the press is grilling her on it? Three: Maybe the standards of proof for claiming minority status changed at Harvard or AALS such that Warren felt obliged to drop her official claim. She still thinks of herself as Native American, in other words, but she can’t prove it to the relevant authority’s comfort. That should be easy enough to check, though. Bottom line: If she’s serious about her heritage, why stop acknowledging it in the mid-90s? There’s no obvious explanation.

While you mull that, here’s Scott Brown enjoying one of the greatest moments of retail politics in recent American history.

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