Boston Globe Retracts Claim That Marriage License Shows Warren’s Great Great Great Grandmother Was Listed As Cherokee

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?

147 thoughts on “Boston Globe Retracts Claim That Marriage License Shows Warren’s Great Great Great Grandmother Was Listed As Cherokee”

  1. Seems her response is to lie, dodge the question, and pander….just another politician who thinks you are stupid.

  2. The Numbers in Massachusetts Don’t Lie
    By Charles P. Pierce
    May 24, 2012

    The problem with serving people a big nothingburger day after day is that, sooner or later, they get hungry and wonder why there’s only a blob of ketchup there on the plate in front of them.

    Coverage of the Senate race here in the Commonwealth (God save it!) between prospective Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren and Republican incumbent Scott Brown has been dominated in recent weeks by an absurd “controversy” regarding whether or not Warren is 1/32nd Cherokee, as her family legend apparently had it, and as the various institutions at which she has been employed have touted. This thing was primarily kept aloft by the Boston Herald, my plucky little alma mater which last week actually ran a story pondering the terrible fix the Democrats were in because of this “scandal.” Bang on that tin drum, kids. Blow that bugle ’til you drop.

    Thanks to the good folks at Suffolk University, we learn now that the whole silly business is, at best, a sideshow and, at worst, a distraction from what’s really going on. In a poll released late Wednesday, we learn what we all knew — that the race is virtually a tie, as it always has been, and that this is going to be a whopper of an election right down to November. Brown leads Warren by a point, 48-47. Incumbents do not like to be under 50 percent and, while the election has closed since a February poll that showed Warren leading by nine, which contained a significant bounce because she was still fairly new, there were 11 percent undecided in that poll, and Warren has picked up enough of them to hold Brown under 50, a barrier he’s yet to crack in a head-to-head poll against her, and guarantee a super-PAC armageddon throughout the summer.

    Now, as to the Last Indian War, 72 percent of the people polled had heard something about the “controversy,” which is hardly a surprise. (The people unaware of it are primarily people in the far western part of the state who are outside the Boston media markets.) There’s good news for Warren in that 49 percent of the people aware of the story think she’s telling the truth about it, even though her public response has been a little incoherent. Better for her is the fact that 69 percent of the people polled think it’s not a “significant” story. This means that better than two-thirds of the people polled have the analytical skills of a handball. You laugh, but this is not always the case.

  3. The Indian Wars and Elizabeth Warren’s Problem
    By Charles P. Pierce
    May 21, 2012

    This really does seem to be one of those cases in which romantic family myth overtook cold genealogical fact, even though I have yet to meet anyone from Oklahoma who didn’t claim some sort of Native American ancestry. It is not all that dissimilar to what happened to Marco Rubio when it was revealed that his parents hadn’t fled Cuba to escape Castro, the more romantic alternative, but were merely perfectly acceptable economic refugees. I have no doubt that Rubio heard the folks talking about fleeing Castro. I have no doubt that Warren heard her folks talking about their Native American ancestors. I have no doubt that both of them believed every word of what they’ve heard.

    There are differences, of course. The first is that Rubio made the fact that his parents were political exiles an important part of his campaign biography while, as near as anyone can tell, the only thing Warren did herself as regarding her alleged Native American background was to mention it from time to time, and contribute a recipe to a Cherokee cookbook. The other difference is that Rubio’s barbered background never became a “scandal” because the infrastructure is not there to make it one. That is not the case with Warren, and there’s more than a little evidence that her campaign is just now coming to realize what’s going on.

    She has not handled it well. She doesn’t seem to recognize the power that trivial nonsense can have in our politics. Last Thursday, in an interview with Chris Matthews, who was persistent, but not in any way hostile, she kept trying to pivot back to the “real issues” in such an ungainly way that she looked not only like a rookie, but also like someone trying to kill mosquitoes with a baseball bat. The other thing she and her campaign doesn’t seem to understand is that this is not a story about a fudged resume. This is a story about affirmative action. Red Like Me. Or Squaw Lady.

    The Herald — and the people on whose behalf the newspaper is pursuing its “scandal” — has been very clever in implying that Warren somehow benefitted personally from her having been listed as a minority at the various places at which she has worked. (Douthat does a good job in illustrating that, whatever advantages those institutions may have gained by listing Warren as a minority hire, she never referred to herself that way and, therefore, gained no advantages thereby.) To the readership that the Herald has carefully cultivated in the nearly 30 years since it was sold to an Australian tits-and-bum merchant who later developed a lucrative second career as a phone-hacker, “affirmative action” is a big red flashing light meaning that the brown people — or, in this case, the red people — are coming to steal all your money and take all your jobs, for which they are obviously not qualified:

    “No kidding, my uncle was on a road crew in Middlesex County, and he got laid off ’cause they had to hire one of them.”

    In making affirmative action a barely buried subtext in this story, the people pushing it have found a way to devalue Warren’s impeccable academic record while, at the same time, sowing doubts about both her “character” and her abilities as a political candidate. Everybody who reads the Herald knows what an “affirmative action hire” means, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. It does no good for Warren to reply that she just wants to get back to “the real issues,” just as it does no good for her to point out that she is as much a Cherokee as Scott ($840K a year) Brown is a suburban Daddy with a truck and a barn coat. There is something grim and nasty at work here that she cannot be too nice to see. And there is something grim and nasty at work here that local Democrats ought to recognize before they start sniping at her, and something national Democrats ought to recognize as a force to be defeated. Yeah, right.

    And, just for the record, my own family myth has us tied to Padraic Pearse, the decent poet who made such a terrible general during the Easter Rising in 1916. (Let’s take over a huge building in the center of a major city with no lines of communication, no supply lines, and no possible path of retreat! Victory is ours!) I have absolutely no proof of this except what my grandmother, the former shepherd from north Kerry, once said to me about it. “Wisha,” she said, “and didn’t we all sleep in the same town hall?” I still don’t know entirely what that meant, but it’s why I never ran for office. There’s a scandal in there somewhere, for sure.

  4. Mike,

    I’ll even help Adrian with his English skills.

    hoise \ˈhȯiz\, v., v.t.,
    transitive verb
    — hoist with one’s own petard or hoist by one’s own petard
    : victimized or hurt by one’s own scheme

  5. We have this via Mark Thoma of Economist’s View:

    “Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said Thursday that banks deemed “too big to fail” should be split up. “We do not need these companies to be as big as they are,” Bullard said. His remarks come a week after J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. disclosed a $2 billion trading loss. “We should say we want smaller institutions so that they can safely fail if they need to fail,” he said…”

    It seems to me that if one really believed in free market principles one would demand that banks be of a size that would allow them to fail without placing the entire rest of the country in jeopardy.

    To those who claim that free market principles require that banks be allowed to grow to any size, and then allowed to fail without regard to the consequences, I ask this: since when do free market principles require a suicide pact? Exactly how do free market principles lead to the conclusion that we let anyone make decisions that can destroy the life savings, the livelihood, the homes, the safety and security of all the rest of us?

  6. Elizabeth Warren’s voice against Wall Street gets tuned out
    By Joan Vennochi | Globe Columnist
    May 17, 2012

    One woman took the fall for Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Another woman — Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat running for US Senate in Massachusetts — is calling for him to resign from the New York Fed.

    So far, the power guys are sticking with Dimon. Appearing on “The View,” President Obama called JPMorgan Chase “one of the best-managed banks there is” and said Dimon “is one of the smartest bankers we’ve got.”

    While the FBI investigates potential criminal wrongdoing at JPMorgan Chase in the wake of a complex $2 billion trade loss, the so-sorry Dimon remains at the helm. For now, the buck stops with Ina Drew, the company’s chief investment officer who tearfully offered to resign.

    Weep not for Drew and her $23 million retirement compensation package. But it’s still noteworthy that the girl is gone, even though the boys knew exactly what she was doing, according to The New York Times.

    As for Warren, it’s déjà vu all over again. She’s the voice of reason and clarity, standing up to Wall Street power brokers. She’s also the voice that Wall Street and Washington insiders like to tune out.

    After the 2008 financial meltdown, Warren set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Its mission is to stop unfair lending practices and to make basic financial transactions more transparent. The bureau was established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and Warren was supposed to head it. But financial institutions strongly opposed her, because she called them out for running banks like casinos.

    The Obama administration didn’t back her either. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner didn’t want her in the job, and Obama selected someone else to head the bureau she created.

    Warren is, instead, running against Republican Senator Scott Brown. As she again demands Wall Street accountability, her message is being undercut on two fronts.

    She still faces questions about her identification as a minority law professor. With the media focused on Warren’s undocumented Cherokee roots, Brown has been able to dodge questions about the role he played in weakening Wall Street regulations.

    Brown voted for Dodd-Frank, but he also worked to water down the so-called “Volcker Rule,” the part of the financial reform law that is supposed to stop banks from making risky bets. After it passed, Brown continued to push federal agencies to weaken regulations needed to put an effective Volcker Rule into place. Since then, he has collected more than $2 million from the financial industry, including more than $50,000 from JPMorgan. This week, he refused to reveal who is on his secret New York City fundraising committee, and whether JPMorgan is represented.

    But Warren’s message is also undermined by a Democratic president with a JPMorgan Chase account that’s worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Politico calls Dimon one of Obama’s “most prominent Wall Street friends, a rare high-profile Democrat in an industry dominated by low-tax, free-market Republicans,” who has given “hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Democrats.”

    The bottom line: Wall Street, in general, and JPMorgan, in particular, curry favor with both parties and it pays off. As Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones, after all the talk of post-crash reform, “mutual funds and hedge funds got away with only modest new limits, credit ratings agencies were left largely untouched, the most dangerous varieties of derivatives were left alone, almost nothing was done to reduce the size of the biggest banks, and additional powers were given to the Fed, which has shown repeatedly that it’s too close to Wall Street to ever regulate it effectively.”

    Dimon is a cozy case in point. His seat on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York gives him a voice in deciding which financial institutions get bailouts for bad trades. As Eliot Spitzer — the ex-governor of New York and ex-AG, who once prosecuted Wall Street — put it, “This conflict of interest is so obvious that it defies all rationalization or explanation.”

    Like Warren, Spitzer believes Dimon should exit the New York Fed. So does Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.

    That’s the power of Wall Street.

    People who are out of power or trying to get it are the ones most willing to take it on.

  7. Warren is one of the smartest candidates running for office this season and she knows how to communicate, with simplicity, many of the complicated issue facing the electorate. Class has nothing to do with it. All classes benefit from that kind of intelligence at work in the Senate.

  8. Elaine:

    who exactly is the middle class? Elizabeth Warren is no champion of the private sector middle class. The poor living by government aid and the middle class employed by government maybe but the working poor and the private sector middle class? Only in Wonder Land.

  9. Elizabeth Warren Expresses No Confidence in Current Bank Accountability Measures
    By: David Dayen Thursday May 17, 2012

    This has been the week where we got a taste of how Elizabeth Warren would comport herself as a US Senator. Since JPMorgan Chase’s Fail Whale trade, which has reportedly already grown to a $3 billion loss, nobody in the political arena has been more vocal – or more knowledgeable – about the trade and what it means for reforming the financial system than Warren.

    She has criticized big banks for their lobbying efforts to weaken Wall Street reform, but she has also gone beyond that. She has explained why a bad trade like this isn’t just “the normal course of business,” as Mitt Romney suggested yesterday, but a scary reminder of the significant risks being taken by banks with federally insured deposits, access to cheap credit and an implicit subsidy from being too big to fail. She advocated for a reinstitution of the Glass-Steagall Act, to explicitly separate commercial and investment banking activity. She demanded that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon step down from the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. And she has taken the lead among a growing number of Democratic candidates, reinvigorating a debate about financial reform and accountability for Wall Street. One thing we know; Warren knows how to use the bully pulpit, especially on an issue where she has credibility.

    I’m going to post a transcript, edited somewhat for clarity, of an interview I did with Professor Warren yesterday afternoon. But I want to highlight the very last thing we talked about. After Warren discussed how, without meaningful civil and criminal investigations of the financial sector, it will not be possible to “clean out the system and rebuild it,” I asked her if she was confident that the current set of investigations, in particular the task force co-chaired by Eric Schneiderman, looking into criminal actions in the securitization process, would yield this level of accountability. She had a simple answer:

    “I am not confident. No. And that’s the answer to your question. The American people are pushing for more accountability. They need to keep on pushing until it happens.”

    This is a significant statement. The RMBS working group, as it was known, was announced to much fanfare in the State of the Union address, but it has not received anything approaching adequate resources, and it has been eerily silent for the past few months, without offices, without phone numbers and (still) without an executive director. Schneiderman in particular, and the Justice Department, have pushed back on criticisms, claiming that the task force remains committed to pursuing the investigation wherever it leads. But here is Elizabeth Warren, as credible a voice as there is on these issues, flat-out saying she lacks confidence in the investigation (or more broadly, any investigation happening at this time). That is extremely damaging to the attempt to pass off the RMBS working group as something legitimate.

  10. The Woman Who Knew Too Much

    Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside. As Warren kicks off her run for Scott Brown’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, Suzanna Andrews charts the Harvard professor’s emergence as a champion of the beleaguered middle class, and her fight against a powerful alliance of bankers, lobbyists, and politicians.
    By Suzanna Andrews
    Vanity Fair
    Novemer 2011

    On the afternoon of July 18, in remarks from the Rose Garden amid the bruising showdown with congressional Republicans over the debt ceiling, President Obama made what the White House billed as a simple “personnel announcement.” In a brief speech, the president announced that he was nominating Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new government agency set up to protect consumers from abusive lending practices. In his remarks he described the agency, part of the massive 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as creating “the strongest consumer protections in history,” set up “so ordinary people were dealt with fairly.” After which he turned to thank the woman standing to his right, Elizabeth Warren.

    A Harvard law professor, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts and consumer advocates, the 62-year-old Warren had come up with the idea for the agency in 2007. She had advised the Obama administration on its creation in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse and helped to push it through Congress. Warren had also spent the last 10 months working tirelessly to build the agency from scratch—hiring its staff of 500, including Richard Cordray, organizing its management structure, and getting the C.F.P.B. up and running for its opening on July 21.

    As she crisscrossed the country, spreading the word about the C.F.P.B., Warren became a familiar face to many, especially to those who had seen her on television—on CNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She had gained millions of supporters. With her passionate defense of America’s beleaguered middle class, under assault today from seemingly every direction, she had become like a modern-day Mr. Smith, giving voice to regular citizens astonished at the failure of Washington to protect Main Street—and what increasingly appeared to be its abandonment of middle-class America. By July, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.—speaking for its 12 million members—had called on Obama to name Warren to head the agency. So had scores of consumer groups. Eighty-nine Democrats in the House of Representatives had signed a letter, publicly urging him to choose Warren. Newspapers around the country editorialized on her behalf, as did hundreds of bloggers. By July 18, when Obama announced that he was passing Warren over, he did so after receiving petitions signed by several hundred thousand people and organizations urging him to appoint Warren as the country’s top consumer watchdog.

    At the end of his remarks, Obama turned to Warren and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled gamely, though if there are kisses a woman can do without, this was one of them. A Judas kiss, some would say. But if so, the betrayal was not just of Elizabeth Warren. In his remarks, Obama would hint at what had happened to Warren, commenting that she had faced “very tough opposition” and had taken “a fair amount of heat.” He also alluded to the powerful forces arrayed against her, and against the C.F.P.B.—“the army of lobbyists and lawyers right now working to water down the protections and reforms that we’ve passed,” the corporations that pumped “tens of millions of dollars” into the fight, and “[their] allies in Congress.” But he was mincing his words. The fight against Warren and the C.F.P.B. was one of the most brutal Washington battles this year, up there with the debt-ceiling showdown and now the looming battle over the jobs bill—but part of the same war. Arrayed against Warren, and today against the very existence of the C.F.P.B., was the full force of what many, most notably Simon Johnson, the M.I.T. professor and former International Monetary Fund chief economist, have called the American financial oligarchy: Wall Street firms and banks supported mainly by Republican members of Congress, but also politicians on the other side of the aisle, along with members of Obama’s own inner circle.

    At a time of record corporate profits, a time when 14 million Americans are out of work, when millions have lost their homes and, according to the Census Bureau, the ranks of those living in poverty has grown to one in six—that Elizabeth Warren could be publicly kneecapped and an agency devoted to protecting American consumers could come under such intense attack is, ultimately, the story about who holds power in America today.

  11. Bron,

    I’m talking about GOP legislation that has been proposed/passed–in the Congress and in state legislatures.

  12. Bron, The RINOS are a dying breed. Look what happen to Lugar, and he isn’t even liberal enough to be considered a RHINO. A sensible republican like Lugar appears to have no chance in today’s republican party.

  13. Blouise:

    Kennedy and Johnson had a big hand in that war but Nixon didnt do much to change the course. His economic policies stifled the economy through the 70’s.

    Carter caught the brunt, not that I am a fan of his. But he did get a raw deal and hopefully as we get farther away from his presidency and more comes out he will rise a few levels in public opinion.

  14. Elaine:

    “We all know what the present-day GOP thinks about freedom…and the rights of women, gays, minorities.”

    Some are but those seem to be the evangelical Christians. You really need to separate the factions. There is a libertarian wing of the GOP which I call conservatives, then there are the RINOS and the evangelicals. I am pretty sure the RINOS and the evangelicals have the most say in the party. The RINOS are socially liberal and somewhat less liberal than democrats on fiscal policy. The evangelicals are socially totalitarian and not to good on economics either.

    Conservatives really ought to form their own party, they are very far apart from RINOS and evangelicals. Conservatives are more like 19th century liberals.

  15. Bron,

    Much of the crisis was brought on by the Nam War which was Johnson.

    (I’m a closet Jimmy Carter fan.)

  16. blouise:

    Actually Nixon’s policies are to blame for the terrible economic mess of the 70’s. I actually believe that Carter was unfairly blamed for the mess Nixon caused. Carter was trying to clean it up, as far as I can tell, and was not successful. Reagan was able to blame Carter for the mess that Nixon caused.

    Which is why I only partially blame Obama for the mess we are in now. W had a big hand to play, he was a coward to yield to Paulson and the bailout of Paulson’s Wall Street buddies. Protecting main street my great aunt Sally. Talk about the big lie.

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