Buried in its correction section, The Boston Globe has issued a retraction of its claim that a marriage license supporting the claim of U.S. Senate Candidate and Law Professor Elizabeth Warren that she is part Cherokee. The correction says that no such marriage license has ever been found and that the reference comes from a “family newsletter” and refers to an application for a marriage license. Moreover, no one has been able to find the paper, let alone study it. In the meantime, the Warren campaign is addressing new disclosures that Warren claimed to be a minority not just at Harvard but also at the University of Pennsylvania. Today another news story reported that Warren (who denied knowledge of being listed as a minority) was cited as “Harvard’s first woman of color” in a Fordham Law Review piece — quoting a Harvard official.
The Boston Globe earlier published an account that became the primary defense for Warren supporters:
A record unearthed Monday shows that US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has a great-great-great grandmother listed in an 1894 document as a Cherokee, said a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogy Society.
The shred of evidence could validate her assertion that she has Native American ancestry, making her 1/32 American Indian, but may not put an end to the questions swirling around the subject….
Chris Child, a genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogy Society, said he began digging into Warren’s family history on Thursday, when media interest emerged.
At first, he found no link between Warren’s family and Native Americans in her native Oklahoma.
But Monday afternoon, he said, he discovered a few links. Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, is listed on her son’s 1894 application for a marriage license as a Cherokee.
Now however the newspaper has said that that was not true:
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in the May 1 Metro section and the accompanying headline incorrectly described the 1894 document that was purported to list Elizabeth Warren’s great-great-great grandmother as a Cherokee. The document, alluded to in a family newsletter found by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, was an application for a marriage license, not the license itself. Neither the society nor the Globe has seen the primary document, whose existence has not been proven.
That seems like a pretty important disclosure to be simply pushed into the correction section of the newspaper.
In the meantime, the New York Times is reporting that Warren was not just listed as a minority faculty member at Harvard but also at University of Pennsylvania. At the very most, Warren is no more than 1/32 Cherokee, even if the account of the great great great grandmother is proven to be true.
As I have mentioned before, I do not believe that Warren was given her positions due to the claim of minority status. She is an extremely intelligent and talented academic. The claim as a minority however has caused a stir among academics who have been discussing the lack of any criteria for such claims. Minority status is an obvious advantage for a law professor as school strive to diversify their faculty ranks. Claiming minority status has an important impact on reporting academic data for schools as it does for governmental reporting.a
What is intriguing is the claim by Warren that she was not aware that she was listed as a minority when that status was asserted by both Penn and Harvard. I do not believe that she would be considered a minority by any conceivable definition without making most Americans minorities. Presumably, these schools did not arbitrarily claim such status for a faculty member, but had to be given an affirmative claim of being a minority by the faculty member. Yet, this process is remarkably fluid and ill-defined at schools. Schools are eager to list every possible minority members in annual reporting.
I am more interested in the general issue of how to define minority status than the campaign. But, putting aside the raw partisanship over the Senate race, how important should this issue in your view be in judging a candidate?