Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has released the results of a DNA test to confirm the long-contested claims that she has Native American ancestry. However, in doing so, the former Penn Law professor has ignited new controversies, prompting a new wave of scorn from members of the Trump administration, as well as strong criticism from the Cherokee Nation.
Warren was a Penn Law professor from 1987 to 1995, before she went on to Harvard Law School.
The results of the DNA test, which were first released to the Boston Globe, "strongly suggest" that Warren had a Native American in her family some 6 to 10 generations ago though the “vast majority” of her ancestry is European. The DNA test was conducted by Stanford University professor Carlos Bustamante. A Penn anthropology professor Theodore G. Schurr has also confirmed the reliability of the test to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Warren's attempt to clear the air has been received with skepticism across the political spectrum.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, President Trump renewed his attacks on Warren on Twitter. "She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American," he tweeted."Now Cherokee Nation denies her."
Trump was referencing an earlier statement from Cherokee Nation secretary of state Chuck Hoskin Jr. that denounced Warren's use of the DNA test. As Vox.com explained, members of the Cherokee Nation have long-argued that it takes more than genetics for a person to call themselves Cherokee. In fact, the more important factor is connections to a documented Cherokee ancestor.
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Hoskin Jr. wrote. “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
The new controversy growing around Warren places the former Penn Law colleagues who have come out in support of her, in a more awkward position.
In a highly publicized video released by Warren this Monday, several of her former colleagues from University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Harvard Law School, University of Houston and Penn are shown testifying to strengths as an educator and decrying claims that she used her Native American heritage to advance her career. Among the professors featured are Penn Law professor Stephen Burbank and former Penn Law professor Hank Gutman.
Burbank was a member of the appointments committee and part of a subcommittee that investigated all minority prospects for jobs at Penn Law when Warren was being considered for a professorial position. Earlier this month, he said definitively to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the senator was never considered as a minority candidate, affirming a report from The Boston Globe that both the Penn Law and Harvard Law hiring committees viewed Warren as a white female, not as a Native American, during the application process.
“We viewed her as a woman candidate, and a white woman candidate,” he said. “It’s clear we did, as there would’ve been no need to undergo the search for a more qualified minority candidate if she was a minority.”
Burbank also said in the video recently posted by Warren, "Elizabeth was revered as perhaps the best teacher on the faculty."
Warren’s DNA test is the latest chapter in the long-standing political controversy surrounding the senator’s Native American heritage. The Washington Post reported that the public controversy “goes back to her first major political campaign” — the 2012 U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts. At the time, her Republican opponent in that race, former Sen. Scott Brown, used the controversy to publicly criticize Warren. He argued that by claiming Native American ancestry, Warren perpetuated a “reverse form of racism.”
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