Warren Continues To Sidestep Questions About Minority Status

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Elizabeth Warren speaking in Brookline on Thursday. (Nate Goldman/WBUR)
Elizabeth Warren speaking in Brookline on Thursday. (Nate Goldman/WBUR)

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren continues to dodge questions about why Harvard University once called her a minority professor. Warren was asked repeatedly about the matter at a campaign event in Brookline on Thursday, her first in nearly two weeks at which the press was allowed, as she has struggled to regain control of her campaign message.

For 12 days, Warren held campaign events, but no press was there to cover them because her campaign did not want reporters there to ask questions. Finally, Thursday, reporters were invited to cover an event at a pub in Brookline where Warren was meeting supporters. The place was packed with people eager to volunteer for Warren and to raise money for her. When talking to reporters, Warren tried to focus on a subject that matters to her.

"I'm here today to support a new bill in Congress that takes the banking executives off the board of directors of the regional Federal Reserve banks," Warren told reporters.

But for 10 minutes questions came, and few had anything to do with banking.

"Can you tell us whether you are, in fact, a member of a minority group?" asked a reporter.

"I... middle-class families are getting hammered," Warren replied.

Next question: "Members of the Cherokee nation want to know," one reporter said. "They say you should come clean."

"I have made the facts clear, and what I'm trying to do is talk about in this Senate race, what matters to America's families," Warren replied.

Next question: "Why did you claim you were a minority and then stop?" the reporter insisted.

"I have told you," Warren replied. "I have answered these questions. I am going to talk about what's happening to America's families."

"Do you believe the issue of your heritage is behind you?" asked another reporter. "And that is it for this issue for the campaign? Or do you think it will come back again?"

"I think Scott Brown wants to hammer on my family and I think what matters to the voters of Massachusetts is how they've been hurt by his votes on the economy and how they've been hurt by his support of Wall Street," Warren replied.

"Are you confident that you've withstood whatever attacks he has launched against your heritage and that you can now move on?" the reporter asked.

"I'm confident that the central issues are going to be these economic issues," Warren replied.

"Finally, are you part Indian?" the reporter pressed.

"I have told you about my family," Warren replied. "I am going to say it this way: I am proud of my family and I am proud of my heritage."

"And does it include Indian background?" the reporter asked.

"Yes!" Warren exclaimed. "Yes!"

Ancestry appeared to be of no interest to Warren supporters at the event. The few questions they asked were about student loans and banking regulations.

A Suffolk University poll this week shows most voters don't consider Warren's background significant, either. The same poll shows that after trailing U.S. Sen. Scott Brown by nine points in February, Warren now trails by only one point.

Still, the Brown campaign Thursday revived its charge that Warren is misrepresenting herself as a minority.

Warren has yet to say why she won't ask Harvard University to release her employment records and Harvard continues to refuse to say why it has called Warren a minority professor and a "woman of color."


This program aired on May 25, 2012.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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