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Does The Heritage Controversy Tell Us More About Warren Or The Media?25:31


Here's a bit of a problem that political reporters have to contend with: How should we handle those stories that appear to distract from what most regard as the big, important issues of the day? When a particular campaign or a political party fans the flames of one of these sidebar stories in an effort to keep a controversy alive, what should the media do?

The story about Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American ancestry presents one of those challenges.

The Harvard law professor who's challenging Sen. Scott Brown has talked proudly about her Native American heritage, and we've learned that she listed herself as a "minority" for nearly a decade back in the late 1980s and early 90s. Warren has tried to explain why and there's no evidence that Harvard, or any other university, hired her because of her claim.

But the story is providing a lot of fuel for the Brown campaign. Last Friday his campaign sent out a fundraising email, suggesting that Warren has not told the truth. There's no evidence of that either, but the story lives on.

We decided it's important to sort out what we actually know from what we don't know and to ask: How has Warren dealt with the story and what does it tell us about the kind of Senator she might be? We also explore the complicated history of Native American heritage and how the perception of that heritage changes from place to place.



This segment aired on May 22, 2012.

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