This whole story about Elizabeth Warren supposedly being fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant has taken on a life of its own. This is almost entirely her own fault because I don’t recall anyone else bringing it up until she started telling the tale repeatedly on the campaign trail. A bit of investigation by the Washington Free Beacon soon revealed that she had actually been offered another term teaching and her resignation had been accepted “with regret.”
Reporting on the story is, however, apparently some sort of sin, at least in the eyes of Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post. It’s a “smear.” And this terrible attack on Warren’s honesty and credibility must be put to rights one way or another. With that in mind, the author launches into a defense of Warren, opening with the mindboggling sentence, “A news report can be narrowly factual, and still plenty unfair.”
Lady, you had me at “narrowly factual.” Let’s see what this is about.
It wasn’t until the next day that some much-needed perspective began to emerge, thanks to a CBS News report.
It included crucial context that would have been ever-so-helpful in the initial piece, like this interview with a retired Riverdale teacher, Trudy Randall:
“The rule was at five months you had to leave when you were pregnant. Now, if you didn’t tell anybody you were pregnant, and they didn’t know, you could fudge it and try to stay on a little bit longer. But they kind of wanted you out if you were pregnant.”
The author goes on to quote Warren’s latest explanation of this apparent contradiction, saying that she was pregnant but “nobody knew it.” And when it became too obvious to hide, the principal called her into the office, wished her luck and said he was going to “hire somebody else for the job.” That’s a statement full of implications, but notice how she still never comes out and says the words “he fired me” or any variation along those lines.
And why would the official record show that the school accepted her resignation “with regret” if the official policy was to ask female teachers to leave at five months into their pregnancy?
This all supposedly took place almost fifty years ago in 1971, before many people reading this were even born. Presumably, anyone who had been around long enough to rise to the rank of principal or sit on the school board was at least in their thirties or forties by then, so they’re likely no longer alive. Certainly someone would have sought out an interview with the principal were he still among the living. So what we have here is Warren’s word against that of a dead man.
The statement from the retired teacher offers no indication that she was familiar with the circumstances of Warren’s departure or if the two even knew each other. She’s describing her impression of what could generously be called an unofficial policy. In other words, you can believe what was reported in the minutes from the Riverdale, N.J. school board or what Warren is now saying. (I specify “now” because it’s also been pointed out that she described her departure from the school during a 2007 interview without ever mentioning being fired.)
In other words, this entire piece builds a case for why it’s still possible that Warren is telling the truth without offering a single bit of factual evidence or even first-person testimony from anyone involved in the situation in 1971. It’s pure speculation, but apparently sufficient to call any reference to the school’s records a “smear.” Of course, Sullivan later goes on to describe Warren’s claims of significant Native American heritage as a “blunder.” (Which sounds so much nicer than a lie.)
But hey… just because something is “narrowly factual” doesn’t mean it’s true, right?