The wheels have finally fallen off Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s diversity wagon. The reliably leftist Boston Globe has issued a retraction of Warren’s claim that she is 1/32 Cherokee Indian. “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 paper writes. “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.” The original story? A headline piece in the Sunday Metro section. The correction? The third item on the correction page, typically buried deep in the paper. The larger issue? The transparent efforts of a biased media to maintain the fiction as long as possible.
The Globe’s original story, published on May 1st, reported that a document proved Warren’s claim. “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 same day the Boston Herald reported that “the Harvard Law professor’s campaign last night finally came up with what they claim is a Cherokee connection–her great-great-great-grandmother.” ABC News also did a May 1st report, noting that genealogist Chris Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Association ”set out to hunt down Warren’s ancestry last Thursday. In less than a week, he discovered documents citing an 1894 marriage record that lists Warren’s great-great-great grandmother, O. C. Sarah Smith as Cherokee, meaning that Warren is 1/32nd Native American.”
On May 4th the New York Times took it a step further, claiming that Republican opponent Scott Brown’s questioning of Warren’s assertion “is straight from the Republican cookbook of fake controversy,” and that “Massachusetts Republicans place doubts on her racial claims to portray her as an opportunistic academic seeking special treatment.” Writer Kevin Noble Maillard, a law professor enrolled as a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, offer his own take on the controversy. “For the Cherokee Nation, Warren is ‘Indian enough;’ she has the same blood quantum as Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker,” he wrote.
The meme, “Warren is 1/32 Cherokee” continued to be promoted by several different news outlets, most of which did nothing more than regurgitate the original story, absent any independent fact-checking. These included CBS News, the Huffington Post and the Associated Press. The most hilarious assertion regarding Warren’s claim came courtesy of the Washington Post’s David Treuer. In a column entitled, “Elizabeth Warren says she’s Native American. So she is.,” Treuer makes the absurd claim that “an Indian identity is something someone claims for oneself; it is a matter of choice.” He further excuses Warren’s assertion, contending that “to be a woman from Oklahoma of working-class upbringing — and to want not only to walk the halls of power but to help build them — you have to press whatever advantage you have. Doing so might seem distasteful to those who’ve never had to do it because they were born into privilege and power.” In other words, lying is acceptable — as long as one’s lower class and purported ethnicity qualifies one to do so.
Despite the mainstream media pile-on, it didn’t take long to prove that Elizabeth Warren’s assertion was nothing more than wishful thinking. Breitbart.com was apparently willing to do something most other news organizations were unwilling to do: conduct an actual investigation of Warren’s assertion. They reviewed original marriage records found in the files of the Logan County, Oklahoma Court Clerk’s office in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and spoke with Logan County Court clerk ReJeania Zmek. Breitbart discovered that the original May 12, 1894 marriage license and the corresponding May 13, 1894 certificate of marriage of William J. Crawford, great-great-grand uncle of Elizabeth Warren, and Mary E. (Long) Wolford contains a column for the race of the bride and the groom — but both of them left it blank
Zmek offered another indication that something was amiss. “In modern times we keep marriage license applications,” she said. “The way they’re issued now, you do the application, then you do the license. We currently do keep records of marriage license applications.” Yet she revealed that this practice didn’t begin until 1950.
Zmek then revealed (probably inadvertently) why many Americans consider mainstream media claims of even-handed reporting beneath contempt. She confirmed to Breitbart that “no other news organization had contacted her to date on any national topic or to inquire about the validity of this purported 1894 Logan County, Oklahoma marriage license application or anything related to the 1894 marriage of William J. Crawford.”
Such “errors of omission” might be acceptable were it evenly applied to both sides of the political spectrum. Yet one need only compare the Washington Post’s recent effort to portray Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney as an anti-gay bully based on a single incident that happened 47 years ago with the mainstream media’s calculated incuriosity regarding large portions of president Obama’s life, which still remain off the record almost four years into his time in office. Furthermore, as the Journolist scandal of 2008 reveals, leftist media members coordinated efforts to keep Jeremiah Wright and his incendiary rhetoric from damaging the president during that election run.
Elizabeth Warren can continue to insist that she is part Cherokee, whether based on dubious assertions, like her grandfather having “high cheekbones,” or ridiculous rationale such as the claim that she did so “in the hopes that it might mean that I would be invited to a luncheon, a group something that might happen with people who are like I am.” And the leftist media can continue to protect her by asserting that she didn’t use such claims to advance her career. But the fact remains that the University of Pennsylvania, who listed her as a minority in a “Minority Equity Report” from 1987 to 1994, and Harvard University, who listed her as a diversity hire in 1996, were more than willing to do so based on nothing more than hearsay. And the mainstream media, as well as the New England Historic Genealogical Association, which is now saying that “the original [marriage license] application cannot be located” were also willing to take Warren at face value, or base their entire assertions of proof on an unsubstantiated March 2006 family newsletter quoting an amateur genealogist.
Yet it remains to be seen if the people of Massachusetts will be as flexible regarding the truth on election day next November. Undoubtedly they will base their votes for either Republican Scott Brown or Warren on a number of issues. Warren might want to hope that personal credibility isn’t one of them.