Paper: Elizabeth Warren's 'Native American Problem' Keeps Getting Worse


With midterm elections still months down the road, pundits have already started speculating about the possible lineup of Democrats running for president in 2020.

At or near the top of most such lists is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Democrat has already demonstrated her fundraising and grassroots-organizing abilities, leading more than a few observers to suggest she is gearing up for a White House bid.

“I think Elizabeth is laying the groundwork for a run,” said San Francisco attorney Guy Saperstein in an interview last year. “She won’t admit it, but it looks like that.”

The investor pledged a $1 million contribution to a pro-Warren super PAC ahead of the 2016 election if she had entered the race.

Though she remains largely popular among her party’s growing left wing, the senator has what many fellow Democrats have identified as an easily exploitable flaw.

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President Donald Trump has already made several references to claims that Warren incorrectly identified herself as a Native American on a college form in what critics allege was an attempt to fraudulently advance her academic career.

While Trump has been widely admonished for using the derisive nickname “Pocahontas” in reference to Warren, the backlash for Warren has hardly been contained to the Republican Party.

As the Boston Globe reported last week in a front-page article, Warren faces an uphill battle in explaining her actions to many of her would-be supporters in a presidential election.

“And, more telling, there’s also discomfort on the left and among some tribal leaders and activists that Warren has a political blind spot when it comes to the murkiness surrounding her story of her heritage, which blew up as an issue in her victorious 2012 Massachusetts Senate race,” the article read.

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Among several examples of such backlash was a recent segment of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Though host Trevor Noah spent much of the monologue building an argument against Trump, he acknowledged there was a legitimate point behind the “Pocahontas” pejorative.

“He’s hitting Elizabeth Warren for saying she was Native American when she wasn’t — something she’s never apologized for or owned up to,” he said.

ThinkProgress surprised some readers when it published an op-ed written by a Cherokee woman deeply critical of Warren.

The piece was published in November, shortly after Trump’s most recent use of the controversial nickname.

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“As a young Cherokee woman, one would assume that I would take Warren’s side in standing up against Trump’s racist remark,” Rebecca Nagle wrote.

Instead, she called on Warren to apologize.

Nagle ended the editorial by giving the senator permission to use a draft apology stating in part that she is “deeply sorry to the Native American people who have been greatly harmed” by her “misappropriation of Cherokee identity.”

The Globe article also noted that a number of tribal leaders have called on Warren to address the controversy and apologize.

In addition to an apology, the newspaper wrote that another “path” toward making amends “includes pursuing stronger outreach to the tribes with whom she claims to share kinship, a strategy that she’s begun to employ.”

Even taking this approach, however, has been seen by some in the Native American community as insincere and unconvincing.

Cherokee Nation leader Chad Smith said Warren is “not part of the Cherokee community” and “hasn’t reached out” to his people.

“She hasn’t come here and participated much,” he said.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
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