Elizabeth Warren Admits She Claimed Minority Status . . . Then Faces Criticism Over Claim That She Was The First Nursing Mother To Take Bar

This morning three different law professors sent me this video of U.S. Senate Candidate and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren claiming to be the first nursing mother to ever take the bar exam. One of the professors, who is a liberal academic, noted that she knows that claim to be untrue from personal experience. However, as noted by Winnie Comfort of the New Jersey Judiciary (which administers state’s bar exam), the bar does not track nursing habits and women have been taking the New Jersey bar exam since 1895. This was not a claim to be a nursing Cherokee mother, but the question remains why Warren is making such controversial boasts when she has a great financial expertise record to run on. Worse still, Warren today admitted that she did in fact claim minority status at Penn and Harvard — after insisting that she was unaware of the claims.

Obviously, the running of a law professor has made the Warren race a focus of law professors around the country. With these issues becoming part of the campaign, that fascination has grown to unprecedented levels. Warren has enjoyed overwhelming support in the academy from what I have seen. That support remains strong, though law professors are still chattering about these controversies.

These distractions however cannot be simply blamed on conservative publications, which are running the stories. Warren does not need such claims to distinguish herself. It could not come at a worse time when she has been unable to support her claim to be Cherokee In one of the most bizarre twists on the story, there are now accounts that great-great-great grandfather may have been a member of the Tennessee Militia who rounded up Cherokees and pushed them into the horrific Trail of Tears. Of course, even if true, that would not alter the fact that his wife was a Cherokee. However, the Boston Globe has confirmed that there is no documentation to support the claim.

With today’s admission that she did in fact repeatedly claim minority status at both law schools, I am again left perplexed why she would take so long to admit her claim. As I noted earlier, I could not imagine any way that such a claim, let alone repeated claims, unless it was made by the law professor.

On the merits, there is significant doubt about the claim. Warren’s bio lists her as becoming pregnant in 1976 before graduating from law school. By that point, the chances that she was the first woman to be a nursing mother during the bar seems doubtful, but more importantly it is not clear how she would know.

Once again, this is not an issue of importance, but it is one that Warren raised. While the claim of being a minority does have significant aspects for law schools and academics, nursing is not a matter that seems particularly relevant. However, what is fascinating is that I would have been impressed with Warren noting that she nursed during the bar exam – reflecting the challenges of female lawyers. No need to be first. I was trying not to hyperventilate at the time. I would be impressed even if she was the latest in a long line of nursing mothers during bar exams.

Nevertheless, she still looks good in comparison to 13 Senatorial candidates who are now accused of having backgrounds that include criminal convictions or tax violations.

I wonder if any of our attorneys have accounts to share of challenges that they faced during the bar examination.  I know of one professor who was caught in a broken elevator in a hotel during his break from the bar.  I know of another lawyer who was under cancer treatment and had to leave to throw up from the medication (he passed).

164 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren Admits She Claimed Minority Status . . . Then Faces Criticism Over Claim That She Was The First Nursing Mother To Take Bar”

  1. I think you have the Wrong number.Keep it up!Don’t cry over spilt milk.We’ve got to do something about the neighbor’s dog!What should I do? God helps those who he1p themselves.God helps those who he1p themselves.You’re welcome.He grasped both my hands.The constitution guards the liberty of the people.

  2. Fighting dirty against women
    By BARBARA LEE | 6/17/12

    The debate swirling around Elizabeth Warren’s heritage is maddening. Not because it is a sideshow to pull focus from real issues in the Massachusetts Senate race and not because negative attacks are just politics as usual. It is maddening because Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign attack on Warren’s “honesty” is not about integrity at all. It’s about strategy.

    We’ve researched voters’ attitudes toward female candidates and studied women in politics, so we know this is a well-worn campaign strategy to discredit and knock women off their political pedestals. It’s upsetting not only because it is a cheap shot, but also because it is a tactic that disguises political games as a genuine push for transparency.

    The ridiculous attention given to the question of Warren’s bloodline is reminiscent of Alex Sink, Florida’s former chief financial officer, who ran a close race against now-Gov. Rick Scott in 2010. Sink looked at her cellphone during a TV debate, launching a frenzy of negative attention. It far outweighed her opponent’s entire record. Yet Scott had previous experience running a health care company that was charged with the largest Medicare fraud settlement in U.S. history.

    It was Sink’s integrity, however, that was called into question over a text message. Is checking your BlackBerry a more egregious offense than ripping off the very taxpayers you are trying to court? Though, perhaps voters experienced buyers’ remorse after that Florida election: A November 2011 poll showed 41 percent of voters viewed Scott’s gubernatorial performance negatively.

    These types of attacks are part of politics. But they damage a long-held advantage that voters give women over their male counterparts: Female candidates generally have an advantage on honesty and ethics, according to research by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation. Women candidates demonstrated this advantage in gubernatorial research over the past decade.

    In 2010, Democratic women running against Republican men for the corner office had this advantage — and it holds true today. In fact, the strongest predictor of voting for a woman is the perception that women govern differently than men, according to our April research. Voters also believe women are more in touch, another indication they are not typically detached politicians, and can connect on real issues that matter — like knowing the price of food and understanding how tough it is to make ends meet.

    Knowing women have an advantage in this, opponents try to knock them off their political pedestals by launching negative attacks early in their campaigns. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley faced allegations of infidelity when she ran in 2010, and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) combated accusations of attending a “secret fundraiser” with a political action committee called the Godless Americans. Cheap shots, indeed.

    Brown’s campaign has taken a page from this playbook. He questioned Warren’s integrity even as he engaged in objectionable behavior of his own: plagiarizing his biography by pulling text verbatim from former Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s website and accepting campaign contributions from big banks to the tune of more than $1 million, all while pitching himself as representing the everyman.

    This distraction from the important real issues that voters face is nothing new. It isn’t exclusively relegated to women candidates. They, however, often pay a steep price with voters when they fall off their perch. Because voters, especially women voters, expect a woman candidate to be different from typical politicians.

    Female candidates maintain their advantage over men on honesty and ethics, our latest research shows, and it ties into their likeability. But when those qualities are questioned, voters punish women for violating ethics and being dishonest.

    Luckily, voters are seeing through Brown’s tactics. Warren continues to hold her own in the polls. People see her for the leader she is.

    Instead of manufacturing phony drama about Warren’s ethnicity, Brown should stick to the facts and make his case about why voters should rehire him. Let’s break this pattern of hyperscrutiny of female candidates and focus on what matters — who the voters believe can best lead.

  3. Those Fingerprints All Over the Elizabeth Warren “Controversy” Belong to Karl Rove
    By Roger Wolfson, Attorney
    Posted: 06/06/2012

    I was a student of Elizabeth Warren at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I didn’t know that Warren had or might have Native American heritage. I’m sure that few of my fellow students knew, and that those who might have known found the information interesting at best. Whatever Warren’s heritage was, it didn’t define her. What defined her was that she was a spectacular professor, literally the star of our school, and a master of the arcane financial laws that have a horrific impact on low-income families.

    I hope that you, dear reader, have also wondered why anyone is talking about Warren’s heritage. Given that it’s been clearly demonstrated that she never got a job, or a benefit, or a bonus based on whatever her heritage might have been. Given that her heritage was never an issue or a matter of discussion ever before.

    Well, the answer is painfully obvious: Scott Brown’s campaign manager is a student, disciple, and virtual clone of Karl Rove. His name is Jim Barnett, and according to every report on him I’ve read, the more comparisons we can make between him and Rove, the happier Jim Barnett is.

    Rove taught Barnett how to create a scandal where none exists. How to make an issue feel important that is not important. Rove taught Barnett to do anything to get people to vote against their best interests. That is how many Republicans, includes Rove’s Bush, have won office — by using underhanded tactics to force people to vote for politicians who do them great harm.

    The low-income white South Carolinian men who voted Bush into the presidency because, for example, Karl Rove convinced them that John McCain had an African-American child, and that Al Gore supposedly claimed he had invented the Internet (both entire falsehoods), were among the first to lose their jobs during the Bush-created recession.

    The low-income Ohioans who voted Bush into a second term because Karl Rove’s surrogates convinced them that the decorated and thrice-wounded John Kerry had trumped up his actual acts of heroism, suffered worse than anyone through the subsequent four years.

    And now, Rove’s protégé, Jim Burnett, is trying to convince Massachusetts voters that a non-controversy is so important that they should vote against their better interests and re-elect a man to the Senate who voted against Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court, who voted to extend to the Bush tax cuts, who voted against the Buffett Rule, who voted against freezing student loans, who voted against ending oil subsidies — and the list goes on.

  4. It’s Personal: Why Scott Brown Is Skating But Elizabeth Warren Is Tripping On Character Questions
    By Wendy Kaminer
    Jun 5 2012

    How do and how should voters evaluate a candidate’s character? Often we mistakenly infer character from personality. Or, in these hyper-partisan times, we may be increasingly inclined to locate bad character in advocacy of policies we oppose, while giving the benefit of any character doubts to candidates who share our political or cultural predilections. But character is complicated and imperfectly reflected by ideology or decisions based on political expediency. Put very simply, essentially decent people sometimes help advance essentially indecent policies, and vice versa. How should we weigh a candidate’s perceived character flaws against his or her political agenda and how much should character matter?

    These are now central question in the Massachusetts Senate race. Scott Brown supporters insist that Elizabeth Warren’s self-identification as a Native American is a window into her character. Warren supporters regard Brown’s intense focus on her ancestral claims as a covert appeal to resentment of affirmative action among the union households that Warren needs to win. They condemn it as a distraction from economic issues, and they’re angry at the media for questioning Warren’s identity instead of Brown’s record.

    They can take solace from a front page story in the June 4th Boston Globe examining Brown’s record on banking regulations. “Senator Brown Sought to Loosen Banking Rules” the headline announces.

    “Senator Scott Brown has trumpeted his role in casting the deciding vote in favor of the 2010 Wall Street overhaul,” the Globe reports, “but records show that after he voted for the (Dodd-Frank) law, he worked to shield banks and other financial institutions from some of its tough provisions. E-mails between Brown’s legislative director and US Treasury Department officials show that Brown advocated for a loose interpretation of the law so that banks could more easily engage in high-risk investments.”

    “He’s for us,” Brown for Senate bumper stickers proclaim. “He’s for them,” this review of his record suggests.

    Does this apparent inconsistency reflect on Brown’s character? Put aside questions about the wisdom of loosening banking regulations. You might still ask why Brown didn’t advertise his work on behalf of the banks. Why cast yourself as a supporter of the “Wall Street overhaul” while quietly working against it? Assume that Brown sincerely believes that enabling “high-risk” investments by banks will help the economy and the “ordinary people” he represents. Why doesn’t he say so?

    Or consider Brown’s confused and misleading account of the failed Blunt Amendment, which he supported. It explicitly provided employers and insurers with the right to opt out of covering any medical care that was contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. In other words, it could have allowed an atheist who disapproved of extra-marital sex to deny coverage for sexually transmitted diseases to his un-married employees.

    Brown addressed concerns about the broad scope of this amendment by denying they existed. Ignoring language allowing health care opt outs based on moral as well as religious convictions, he insisted, counter-factually, that the amendment was simply a conscience clause, restoring religious freedom to Catholics and other people of faith.

    “You acknowledge that Senator Blunt’s amendment that you’re supporting goes far further than religious objections, no?” Jim Braude of New England Cable News asked Brown in an interview last February. “No, I don’t,” Brown replied. Braude pressed on, citing references in the bill to the “moral convictions” of an employer or insurer. “That’s the language,” he said. “I’m repeating it verbatim.” Brown was undeterred: “I disagree with your interpretation,” he answered nonsensically and hotly accused Elizabeth Warren, who opposed the Blunt Amendment, of trying to divide Catholic women from their faith and their church. (Divide women from their church? Isn’t that the Vatican’s job?)

    I can imagine three explanations for Brown’s response to questions about the Blunt Amendment.

    1) He was intentionally disingenuous: He voted for the amendment in order to cast himself as a defender of the faiths, especially Catholicism, and denied facts about the amendment’s scope in order to preserve his image as a pro-choice, Massachusetts moderate. (As a state senator, Brown voted for a contraceptive coverage mandate that he now opposes.)

    2) He didn’t read the amendment before voting for it and was unfamiliar with its exact language; or
    3) He didn’t understand the amendment and thought the language referencing “moral convictions” didn’t matter. In other words, Brown is either a dishonest politician of questionable character or a negligent or dim-witted one of questionable competence. Personally, I don’t imagine that he’s stupid.

    Should voters who support Brown’s policy agenda, assuming they can accurately discern it, care if he’s a flawed character? (Isn’t stonewalling all in the game?) Should Warren’s political allies care if she too has less integrity than they imagined? For the sake of argument, assume the worst about both candidates. Assume that she claimed her fabled Native American heritage to gain an advantage in the Ivy League hiring process. Assume that he misrepresented his vote on the Blunt Amendment for show, in order to cast himself as a moderate, pro-choice defender of religious liberty and that he poses as a champion of working and middle class consumers while quietly advancing the interests of Wall Street and too big to fail banks.

    But if Brown’s posturing on religious liberty, choice, and financial reform is fair game in a race focused on character, it seems unlikely to affect his high favorability ratings or assessments of his integrity among target voters. His fumbles on the Blunt Amendment provided fodder for liberal blogs, but undecided and swing voters may have found his rhetoric about religious liberty persuasive. Even relatively simple legislation like this is relatively complicated in the context of a campaign, and readily spun.

    Financial reform is particularly complex. Facts about Brown’s public role in passing Dodd Frank and his private role in helping to gut it can be easily obscured in the fog of political war. He can successfully dispute the Globe story with a general denial of its accuracy and a claim that he’s focused on job creation. Voters who like Brown and have already credited him with good character are likely believe him.

    How do less partisan voters evaluate character? I suspect they rely on personal stories, not policy debates, regardless of what the framing of those debates — and a candidates’ forthrightness in explaining his positions — reveal about character. In Massachusetts, the appeal of the personal over the political remains a formidable challenge for Elizabeth Warren. Facts about financial reform are a lot less engaging, a lot harder to dramatize, personalize, and mock than Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry.

    The morning after the front page Boston Globe story on Brown’s “loosening” of banking regulations, a local NPR affiliate (WBUR) ran yet another review of the fracas over Warren’s heritage and its effect on the Senate race. The report of Brown’s record on financial reform wasn’t even mentioned.

  5. bfm,

    Sen. Scott Brown Touts Vote For Wall Street Reform In Ad, Neglects To Mention How He Watered It Down
    By Pat Garofalo on May 29, 2012

    Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), in the face of a challenge from Wall Street reformer Elizabeth Warren, has been going out of his way to claim that he has been tough on the nation’s banks. Case in point, a recent ad released by his campaign prominently claims that he was “the tie-breaking vote on Wall Street reform“:

    The problem with Washington is that people down there are always battling. That’s not how I operate. We’re Americans first, and I’ll work with anyone to get things done. I was the tie-breaking vote on Wall Street reform.

    Brown did cross the aisle to vote with Democrats to approve the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. However, what the ad neglects to mention is the role Brown played in significantly watering the down the law, which has landed him heaps of Wall Street cash.

    Brown was instrumental in weakening the Volcker Rule, which was meant to rein in risky trading with federally backed dollars by the nation’s biggest banks. He also forced Democrats to strip from the law a $19 billion bank tax. Without that provision, the Congressional Budget Office is now bizarrely claiming that the law has a “cost” of about $20 billion, a score which Republicans have seized upon as justification for their efforts to repeal the law entirely.

    1. @Elaine M.

      Thanks. Have to admit I am not as knowledgeable of Brown’s position as I should be.

      But at the risk of being superficial, it seem to me that a case could be made that he pays lip service to reform and regulation and then works to undercut the position and unleash the banks to speculate as they please.

      He would not be the first politician to say one thing and then support a different position.

      But if that is true he is certainly being reckless with the money and economic future of all of us.

      Banks occupy a special position in the economy. That is why, in the past we have expected bankers to conduct themselves and their business in a prudent and thoughtful way.

      There was a time when banking was a relatively low risk, low return business. Who a banker knew was probably more important that what he knew.

      Then the boys with finance degrees got into the business and realized they could make a fortune charging consumers exorbitant fees and, especially, by speculating with other peoples money. The risk remained relatively low because the government was there to step in when bets (and yes bet is the proper word) failed to pay off.

      When things worked out the bankers leveraged others peoples money and made a fortune. When a black swan appeared and their bets failed the bankers were not the ones to get hurt.

      You and I are paying for their folly. You and I are paying because their math geniuses could not figure out that financial investments are not independent events. On the contrary, financial investments are frequently highly related, highly correlated – if one fails others may be placed in jeopardy.

      But now they and their cronies want us to trust our money with their amazing powers of perception yet again. The only reasonable response to that proposition is ‘Never Again’.

      Letting the banks speculate is a suckers bet and it deserves all the contempt we can muster to the banks, to the Scott Browns of congress, to Jamie Dimon’s business, and to their hired lobbyist.

  6. Senator Brown sought to loosen bank rules
    OK’d overhaul, then called for leeway, e-mails show
    By Noah Bierman and Michael Levenson
    Globe Staff / June 4, 2012

    Senator Scott Brown has trumpeted his role in casting the deciding vote in favor of the 2010 Wall Street overhaul, but records show that after he voted for the law, he worked to shield banks and other financial institutions from some of its tough provisions.

    E-mails between Brown’s legislative director and US Treasury Department officials show that Brown advocated for a loose interpretation of the law so that banks could more easily engage in high-risk investments.

    While the law, known as Dodd-Frank, sets broad parameters for how the financial industry must behave, the interpretation of the law, and the rules that follow, will govern Wall Street’s daily business.

    At issue in Brown’s e-mails is the Volcker rule, a particularly contentious provision of Dodd-Frank. The rule, championed by Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, prevents commercial banks from speculating heavily in higher risk investments. Banks are federally insured, which means that if they fail, taxpayers must reimburse many depositors.

    Brown’s role in helping to loosen the Volcker rule in advance of casting his vote on Dodd-Frank has been well-documented. Notably, he helped create a provision that allows banks to invest up to 3 percent of their money in riskier investments such as hedge funds and private equity funds, and to own up to 3 percent of an individual fund – additions that won him Wall Street support.

    But e-mails obtained by the Globe show that Brown’s work on behalf of the financial sector did not stop when the law was passed. In the second stage, as regulators began the less publicly scrutinized task of writing rules amid heavy pressure from the banking sector, Brown urged the regulators to interpret the 3 percent rule broadly and to offer banks some leeway to invest in hedge funds and private equity funds.

    1. @Elaine M.

      My guess is that Brown would claim to be a free market person. (I may be putting words in his mouth, here). But it is hard for me to imagine that Brown would come out against letting an unfettered market work its way through.

      But the fact is, his actions give reality to letting banks take the winnings and leaving it to the rest of us to pay for their folly when they loose. This is the well named ‘privatize the winnings, socialize the loses.’

      The alternative to ‘socializing the loses’ when banks fail is to accept financial chaos, and economic destruction in the form of a recession at best or quite possible a depression.

      Why would any reasonable person accept a system where the economic well being of millions can be placed in jeopardy by a few, powerful people who’s actions only benefit themselves?

      Why would any reasonable person accept a system where our only choices are to pay for the losses generated by a few or face economic disaster ourselves.

      The fact is that banks occupy a special place in the economy. They play a special role. Speculation, or hedging, is not necessary for that role. Speculation may add to their profits when they guess right. But there is no economic or social benefit for the rest of us. And there is great risk and possible great cost for the rest of us – as was so clearly demonstrated a few year ago.

      Some would argue that the housing market is what started the recent problems. Maybe so. But it was the poorly understood risk of speculation and hedging that allowed the contagion to spread and grow. Society stood to gain nothing from the upside of speculation but we paid dearly when the situation went bad. Our choice was to (1) pay for the damage in the form of a bailout or (2) let the markets clear without assistance and accept even greater cost in the form of an economic depression.

  7. Warren Avoids Senate Primary in Massachusetts

    SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — After a month of floundering, Elizabeth Warren, the embattled Senate candidate in Massachusetts, gained the endorsement of the state Democratic Party on Saturday and avoided a party runoff in her race against Senator Scott P. Brown in November.

    “It’s a long way from Ted Kennedy to Scott Brown,” Ms. Warren said in a feisty speech here on Saturday to the roughly 3,500 delegates to the state convention, invoking the name of the lionized Democrat. Mr. Kennedy’s death in 2009 led to the special election in which Mr. Brown won the seat.

    She also dismissed the controversy in which her campaign has been mired for more than a month — whether she unfairly claimed American Indian ancestry to advance her academic career.

    “If that’s all you’ve got, Scott Brown, I’m ready,” she declared to cheers. “And let me be clear. I am not backing down. I didn’t get in this race to fold up the first time I got punched.”

    It was a foregone conclusion that Ms. Warren, who has been widely perceived as the presumptive nominee, would win the endorsement. The question was how many votes her rival, Marisa DeFranco, would receive. Ms. DeFranco, an immigration lawyer, needed 15 percent of the vote to earn a spot on the ballot.

    Party officials said that in the last 30 years, no candidate had achieved the 86 percent of the vote that Ms. Warren would need to keep Ms. DeFranco off the ballot, all but guaranteeing Ms. Warren a primary fight that could divert some of her time, money and attention from the race against Mr. Brown.

    But the pro-Warren forces, including those of Gov. Deval Patrick, lobbied the delegates intensively, arguing that they needed all their firepower focused on Mr. Brown. And in the end, the delegates agreed, denying Ms. DeFranco a spot on the ballot by giving her less than 5 percent of the vote and sending Ms. Warren into the general election unencumbered.

    “I’m ready,” Ms. Warren told the conventioneers after the vote was announced. She asked the delegates if they were ready to take on Wall Street, big oil and to “stop the Republicans from taking over the United States Senate.” A huge cheer went up in the cavernous hall.

    Ms. Warren began the day with some good news with two new polls — from The Boston Globe and from Western New England University — showing her running essentially even with Mr. Brown.

  8. Elizabeth Warren needed an A-game speech — and she gave one
    By Joan Vennochi
    Posted by Alan Wirzbicki

    SPRINGFIELD — Elizabeth Warren is right. Republican Senator Scott Brown would rather talk about her family than his votes.

    She did a great job reminding people what Brown voted for and against during his two years in Washington. But a great speech to the party faithful is no guarantee the questions about her family heritage will finally go up in smoke.

    Warren needed an A-game speech and she delivered one to Democratic convention delegates. She started off with the tiniest quaver in her voice, but quickly got past the jitters and seized command of the stage.

    An audience that has watched an inexperienced candidate duck and stumble for several weeks over questions about her Native American heritage instead heard a confident and eloquent candidate draw the outlines of a fight that resonates in Massachusetts and beyond.

    She made the typical Democratic case for which party stands with the people — Democrats — and who does not — Brown and his “Republican buddies.”

    Beyond showing that she could speak with partisan passion, Warren also needed to show she is ready to take what Brown and the media are already dishing out. She has been hammered with questions about how Harvard University came to list her as a minority, and only recently acknowledged that she gave that information to Harvard, and to the University of Pennslyvania, where she also worked as a law school professor. A key part of her message to delegates was to reinforce the alleged irrelevance of those queries.

    “If that’s all you got, Scott Brown, I’m ready,” she declared. “And let me be clear: I am not backing down. I didn’t get into this race to fold up the first time I got punched.”

    The image she projected was that of a strong, tough woman eager to take on Brown. In that hall, before that crowd, she seemed up to the challenge. That’s what true believers needed to see — especially from a female candidate, given the recent showdown between Brown and Martha Coakley, the Democratic woman he defeated — and true believers saw it.

  9. Swarthmore mom,

    The Rove machine operatives and pro-banksters are just gearing up….testing the political waters. They saw how much traction they got with the news media with the “scandalous” Warren stories. Look how long they were able to keep the media focused on Warren and not on the issues of import and where the candidates stand on them. They don’t want the media and voters in Massachusetts focusing on the “real” Scott Brown–a man who claims to be a moderate but who really isn’t. He’s a man who totes water for the Wall Streeters while wearing a barn jacket and driving around in a pickup truck. We are fiddling while Rome burns!

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