Senator Elizabeth Warren held her first 2020 campaign rally Saturday in Iowa, but it didn’t go quite as planned. Her first question wasn’t about policy, but about a bizarre stunt that revealed she does not have a strong claim to Native American ancestry.
CNN reports that Warren “was confronted by a voter in Sioux City on Saturday morning over her controversial decision to use a DNA test to prove her claims to Native American ancestry,” and that Warren was subsequently forced to admit that she is not a “person of color.”
“I am not a person of color,” Warren told her audience. “I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes — and only tribes — determine tribal citizenship, and I respect that difference.”
Warren also defended her decision to “prove” her Native American ancestry, adding that she just wanted to “put it all out there,” even though the DNA test showed Warren was likely only 1/1024 Native American (and even that is an estimate).
The questioner pressed Warren, though, on how deeply the “helpful” and “transparent” DNA test cut into her campaign, noting to Warren that President Donald Trump used Warren’s announcement last week of forming her exploratory committee to distract from issues dogging the White House, including immigration and an ongoing government shutdown.
At that point, Warren pivoted to her campaign’s latest tactic for dispelling concerns over her wrongful appropriation of Native American culture and ancestry, reminding her audience that Donald Trump frequently makes “racially charged” comments.
“I can’t stop Donald Trump from what he’s going to do,” Warren said. “I can’t stop him from hurling racial insults. I don’t have any power to do that,” she told the audience.
Warren then promised to keep her campaign focused on the “issues.”
The response echoes an effort her campaign exploratory committee made earlier this week, deflecting concerns about Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry by comparing those concerns to “birtherism,” the theory among first Clinton-supporting Democrats and then Republicans that former President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and was operating under a fake or forged birth certificate.
The exploratory committee’s website even went so far as to imply that questioning Warren’s claims to Native American ancestry was “racist” to Native Americans in general, even though Warren herself has used age-old racist stereotypes about Native Americans — that they have “high cheekbones” — as “proof” of her lineage, and took part in compiling a cookbook called “Pow Wow Chow,” supposedly to honor her family’s Cherokee ancestors.
Although there is scant evidence that Warren used claims of Native American blood to obtain special privileges, Harvard did occasionally refer to Warren as a “Native American” staff member while she served as a law professor there, leading some analysts to believe Warren was more reliant upon her “Native” ancestry than she admits.