Indian Giver: Rightbloggers' Yuks at "Fauxcahontas" Elizabeth Warren Turn to Trail of Tears
Liberal fave Elizabeth Warren is running for Scott Brown's Senate seat in Massachusetts. Just after she announced in September, polls showed her six points behind the incumbent; now, she's running about even with him.
Yet if you'd only been following rightbloggers on this race, you'd assume that she was out of the running, disqualified by a claim she made years ago that she was 1/32nd Cherokee.
How this became an issue demonstrates something about rightbloggers' idea of politics and perhaps life.
Warren is best known as a consumer finance expert on TV shows, and as a strong supporter of the establishment of a U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which she helped launch but was not appointed to run, as the Obama Administration seemed to fear the political fallout of putting an actual consumer advocate in the job.
This gave rightbloggers reason enough to despise her from jump. In January, for example, Nick Gillespie at Reason said the CFPB was created to "simplify credit offerings so that all of us idiots who bought houses we couldn't afford could blame somebody else." Also, Warren once said "folks 'didn't know the deal' when they signed up for credit cards" -- a statement uncontroversial to most people who have seen an actual credit card agreement, but which proved to Gillespie that Warren is "the embodiment of a paternalist (maternalist?) who thinks that jes' plain folks are dolts who are always getting screwed by mustache-twirling bankers..."
This promising line of attack was obviated in late April, when the Boston Herald revealed that Warren had claimed to Harvard, her employer in the 1990s, that she was 1/32nd Cherokee; that the Harvard Crimson had presented this as Warren's "minority background"; and that Warren had no proof of her Native American roots other than stories her family members had told her.
No overt financial or hiring advantages appear to have accrued to Warren for this perhaps fanciful family account of her background, and normal people may be expected to think little of it. But rightbloggers made it the centerpiece of their complaints against her.
Rush Limbaugh jumped on Warren's Indian claim as proof of liberal racism. Warren had said that "my Aunt Bee has walked by that picture [of Warren's grandfather] at least a thousand times, remarked that he -- that her father, my papaw -- had high cheekbones, like all of the Indians do! Because that's how she saw it..." "What have I always told you about liberals?" reacted Limbaugh. "They categorize people. They make moral judgments on people on the basis of surface matters... And here's proof of it. She is an Indian, one-thirty-second of an Indian, because her papaw had high cheekbones. And all Indians have high cheekbones... I'd love to ask her: 'What characteristics do 'all' white people have? Name one, just one characteristic." Etc.
"Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that, legally, a person either is recognized as a member of a Native American tribe or is not," said Steve Sailer. "...This is hardly a trivial or obscure point, because who gets shares of casino profits depend upon it."
At Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, Michael Patrick Leahy discovered -- based on tips forwarded by William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection -- that Warren's great-great-great grandfather was "a member of the Tennessee Militia," which organization participated in the Trail of Tears forced relocation of Native Americans.
"Jonathan Crawford most likely did not join the regular Army troops who 'escorted' these Cherokees along the Trail of Tears," admitted Leahy far down in the article, but he did "serve more than once" in an outfit that at some point "fought the Seminole Indians in Florida."
These stories don't disprove anything about Jonathan Crawford's racial heritage, but they did give rightbloggers some laughs.
Ah, what might have been.
"The Trail of Tears, Warren. You own it," said Some Guy at Ace of Spades, who added that "people in the stands at a Braves game doing the 'tomahawk chop' are as Indian as Elizabeth Warren, yet she had no problem making this claim for decades, based on nothing more than a rumor, to take advantage of the Democrats' check-the-box system of racial spoils."
It's worth reminding our readers here that no one has shown that Warren benefited at her job from her ethnic claims, but many of the brethren followed Some Guy's lead in implying that she had.
"Elizabeth Warren is a liar and a scam artist who used minorities to get her way to the top," declared Politik Ditto. "Warren claimed minority status, using her 1/32nd Indian ancestry, in college to get a few freebies," said Political Pistachio. "Aside from Brian Leiter... it is obvious to everyone else why Elizabeth Warren self-identified as Native American all those years -- which was to get an edge in hiring," asserted Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy.
Some tried to be a little cuter about it. "I probably need to make it clear that, if Warren had falsely claimed Native American status in order to be hired, that would be a serious issue," harrumphed neo-neocon. "As a voter I would consider it an important strike against her (although I wouldn't be voting for Ms. Warren in the first place)." Noted!
Scott Brown eventually got in on this ("refusal to answer legitimate questions have cast doubt on her credibility and called into question the diversity practices at Harvard"), but then wisely moved on to other topics. Rightbloggers, however, hung in there, pleased to have found a topic that suited their intellectual and rhetorical gifts.
At Twitchy, Michelle Malkin's alternate Twitterverse for rightbloggers, the brethren came up with a set of "Elizabeth Warren Indian Names," including "Sackatheeconomy," "Chief Full-of-Lies," and "Woman-Who-Loved-Dog-Eater."
"Let's cut Elizabeth Fauxcahontas Crockagawea Warren some slack here," said National Review's Mark Steyn. "She couldn't be black. She would if she could, but she couldn't... She is a testament to America's melting pot, composite pot, composting pot, whatever."
On very rare occasions, rightbloggers felt compelled to note that they were just funning and meant no offense to actual members of minority groups -- e.g., "The point I tried to make in the column," said LaShawn Barber, "was how ridiculous it is for the blond, blue-eyed Elizabeth Warren to list herself as a racial minority, an American Indian, not that the descendants of American Indians cannot be blond and blue-eyed."
But by and large, they didn't bother. Why should they? They didn't get this far by displaying racial sensitivity, and campaign 2012 is no time to start.
Thus: "This is an admittedly racist, politically incorrect cartoon," wrote Another Guy at RedState in introduction to a crappy gag. "It is also satire. I got the idea from Elizabeth (I'm a Cherokee Princess) Warren." "Me thinkum that Ms. Warren (pale-face) is a Heap-Big-Liar that speakum with Forked-Tongue," jested Gotham Resistance. Power Line reproduced a video parody of Cher's "Half-Breed" in which Warren, in a full war bonnet, sang, "Harvard's where I wanted to teach the law/ They said, 'You're hired since you claim you are squaw,'" Etc.
Meanwhile the rightblogger investigative teams kept digging. Katrina Trinko at National Review suggested that Warren had plagiarized sections of her 2006 book on finance, All Your Worth. This turned out to be bullshit, and Trinko retracted her post.
But rightbloggers found another scoop they felt more confident about -- that Warren had "plagiarized" recipes she contributed to a "Pow Wow Chow" cookbook of Native American dishes.
The idea that family recipes for things like Crab with Tomato-Mayonnaise Dressing would be subject to copyright protection may seem ridiculous to you, but it was smoking-gun time at National Review ("Elizabeth Warren Story Keeps Getting Better" -- Noah Glyn) and elsewhere.
"WILL HARVARD LAW SCHOOL CONDEMN ELIZABETH WARREN FOR POW WOW CHOW PLAGIARISM?" hollered the headline at Breitbart's Big Government. "When people are willing to lie that easily for little or no reason, they'll lie about anything," said Yet Another Guy at Ace of Spades. "Someone should start reviewing her academic papers."
"This should be a huge story, but the left's corrupt Democrat-Media-Complex refuses to report factually and honestly," thundered Donald Douglas.
When it began to dawn on some of them that the story wasn't going over with normal people as expected, it was time to pull out the inevitable conservative victim card.
"Of course, this is a by-product of living in a liberal state," moped Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator. "Most folks here in the Bay State not only favor affirmative action but see nothing wrong with Warren's claims even if they are dubious."
"But what would have happened if Warren had been a Senate candidate identified with the Tea Party rather than Occupy Wall Street?" asked Pete Spiliakos at First Things. "...The Tea Party Warren story would have crossed over into pop culture with SNL skits and jokes from the late night comedians... If Warren had been Michelle Bachmann, the phony Native American stuff would be the first fifteen things swing-voters heard about her and nothing else they heard would matter."
Others put up a brave front: At Commentary Alana Goodman insisted that Massachusetts Democrats are "Stuck with Elizabeth Warren," when presumably they would prefer a candidate without national name recognition and the ability to raise $6.9 million in campaign funds in three months.
Some just pretended it wasn't happening: "You Won't Have Elizabeth Warren To Kick Around By Indian Summer," claimed Dan Riehl. "The Unraveling Accelerates," announced Tom Maguire. "...Well, vigorous sleuthing has cracked the Case of the Missing Inspirational Minority. And do let's note - the press is losing patience with their Golden Girl."
While these geniuses were predicting her demise, Warren, after weeks of fencing, put out a dismissive statement ("What kid asks their grandparents for legal documentation to go along with their family stories?") and was nominated to the Senate by the Massachusetts Democratic Party with 96% of delegate votes, evading a primary. She also picked up the endorsement of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (or, as the Daily Caller had it, "Deval Patrick passes Elizabeth Warren his peace pipe").
Some of the brethren went looking for new intelligence that would more successfully inflame the electorate against Warren. Here's their latest: Somebody found a video of Warren at a 2011 event, saying she was "first nursing mother to take a bar exam in the state of New Jersey."
It was an obvious joke, and the audience in the video laughs at it. But William Jacobson announced it was "Elizabeth Warren's biggest whopper of them all," and snarled, "Warren just pulled this out of her bag of victim lines. It is classic Warren, an unverifiable and unrefutable claim in which the truth doesn't matter, only whether the statement serves a political purpose."
Jacobson updated, "There has been some suggestion that Warren was just joking around when she made the bizarre statement. There is no way Warren was joking around." In support of this, he reproduced... the video of Warren's crack and the audience laughing.
Maybe he figured his readers wouldn't play it. Other bloggers who picked up his story didn't seem to. ("Sounds like another tall tale from Lie-awatha," said The JerseyNut. "...once again she has appropriated the bravery, guts, and identity of another in order to further her own career," blah blah.)
Jacobson's commenters seemed not to, either, and one debunked Warren's joke with math: "29 female students per year who are going to take the NJ bar *.05 = 1.45 students per year attempting to become pregnant," he calculated. "80% of those attempting to become pregnant do so (1.45 *.8 = 1.16) In order to be nursing during the bar exam, you would have to become pregnant in the L2 year or VERY early L3 year, so you have a 1 year pregnancy window. So divide that 1.16 by 3..."
It's a show biz truism: You're always funnier when you don't know that the joke's on you.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- As Islamophobic Rhetoric Gets Louder, NYC Muslims Fear for Their Mosques
Fri., Nov. 27, 6:30pm
Fri., Nov. 27, 7:00pm
Fri., Nov. 27, 7:30pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 12:00am
- Forget Big Chain Theaters — Watch Movies at These Cool NYC Spots Instead
- Rightbloggers: You Don't Have to Live Like a Refugee — But If You Do, Get Lost