A new campaign ad by Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts calls
attention to the way that Senate-race rival Elizabeth Warren, during
her academic career, listed herself as a racial minority.
The ad, titled "Who knows?" focuses on whether Ms. Warren sought
to parlay unproven claims to native American heritage into career
advancement as a law professor.
The two candidates are locked in a tight race. Senator Brown
began pressing the issue months ago, after the matter emerged in
local news reports. But this week's ad is Brown's first on the
Brown's advertisement shows news footage of reporters talking
about Warren's claim to Cherokee ancestry in her Oklahoma family.
Then a reporter asks Warren: Is there anything else thats going to
come out about you that we dont already know? The Democrat laughs in
response. You know, I dont think so, but who knows?
The ad follows a public debate last week, in which Brown raised
the issue face to face with Warren, arguing that serving in the
Senate requires passing a test of "character." He said she clearly
is not native American an apparent reference both to her white skin
and to a lack of evidence to prove native American ties.
Warren has responded to Brown's ad with her own 30-second video,
speaking directly to the camera with this message: "I never asked
for and never got any benefit because of my heritage."
A good many voters in the state agree with the view that she
didn't benefit. Others disagree, however. And Warren's critics argue
the important question is not whether she benefited, but whether
career advancement was her motive.
Here is what has come out so far through the political campaigns
and through media reports.
1. Warren listed herself as a minority. The Association of
American Law Schools (AALS) directory included, as of its 1986-87
edition, a list of "minority law teachers." Warren, then at the
University of Texas, was on the list. Moving to the University of
Pennsylvania the next year, she continued to be on the minority list
through the directory's 1994-95 edition. The later years of her
listing coincided with her recruitment by Harvard Law School,
initially as a visiting professor.
2. Harvard was under pressure to diversify its faculty. Warren's
listing came at a time when law schools around the country faced
pressure from minority advocates to show greater diversity on their
faculty, in race as well as gender. In one 1992 incident, students
staged a sit-in in the office of the Law School dean to push for
greater faculty diversity.
A sign of the times: The AALS list of minority law professors
grew from four pages in length in 1986-87 to seven pages by the mid-
3. Harvard hired her, and she was viewed as boosting racial
diversity. The Boston Herald cited a 1996 Harvard Crimson article in
which a law school spokesman listed "one native American" as part of
a diverse faculty, a reference to Warren. Similarly, the Crimson in
1998 referred to Warren as "the first woman with a minority
background to be tenured" at the law school, the Herald said.
The Boston Globe reported that in 1999, Harvard published an
affirmative action report that lists a native American professor at
the law school, specifying that the individual is female.
Before Warren arrived full time at Harvard, some of the people
leading the diversity push apparently viewed Warren as a minority. A
1993 issue of the Harvard Womens Law Journal listed her among "women
of color" in legal academia.