Elizabeth Warren appeared on a local radio talk show Monday morning, where both a caller and one of the hosts asked the Harvard law professor about her use of her unproven Native American heritage to advance her professional career. In response, Warren claimed she only listed herself as a minority in a law school directory.
"My background is very similar to Professor Warren's," said the caller, identified as Kate. "My family were Mohawks. My grandfather was a quarter, which makes me one-sixteenth. When I was applying to college, they had that question, that box, are you American Indian, minority? I didn't check it. I took a job with a government contractor, though, and at that point, I thought, well, I'm going to check it. So I checked it even though I'm blonde with blues eyes. I knew that it wasn't the spirit of the law. That was back in the '80's. I still feel badly that I checked that box."
Kate then asked Warren a question: "Do you feel that guilt that you checked the box?"
"I'm like you, I know what I know from my family," Warren said in response. "But I didn't check a box to go to college. I didn't check a box to go to law school. The only box I ever checked was in a directory to have somebody find me. I didn't take anybody else's job."
But co-host Margery Eagan pushed Warren on the issue. "The thing is, you're a really smart woman," Eagan said. "You're a Harvard law school professor. You had to know when you were checking the box...in the law school directory, that you didn't meet the criteria of a Native American. You're not affiliated with a tribe. You don't have that community recognition. So that's the nub, that you were not a person that met those federal guidelines and yet you said that you were Native American."
Warren's main defense is that her employers at Harvard were unaware she was claiming to be a Native American when she was hired. But as Eagan pointed out, the university was touting Warren's "minority" status.
"They were touting you left and right as their first woman of color when they were in trouble in the '90's," Eagan said.
"I didn't take advantage of this," Warren replied. "I didn't do this on a college application...I didn't do this on a law school application. I didn't do this to get a job. That's just not what I did."
Listen to the audio of the exchange here.
Warren's opponent in the Senate race, Scott Brown, has a new TV ad criticizing Warren for her Native American claim.