Warren sends letter to supporters trying to calm Native American controversy

Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to supporters this afternoon intended to allay concerns about her handling of questions over whether she claimed Native American status in her academic career.

The letter comes after weeks of media coverage, including an admission to the Globe late Wednesday night that she had told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania that she was Native American, contradicting earlier statements she had made on the subject.

The e-mail is titled “Who I am,” and attempts to portray the questions as a Republican-fueled personal attack.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“When I was a little girl, I learned about my family’s heritage the same way everyone else does — from my parents and grandparents,” Warren writes. “My mother, grandmother, and aunts were open about my family’s Native American heritage, and I never had any reason to doubt them.”

Warren also seeks to explain why she never documented her claims with proof of ancestry, a federal requirement when universities report their diversity data.

“What kid asks their grandparents for legal documentation to go along with their family stories?” she wrote. “But that’s not good enough for Scott Brown and the Republican Party. For several weeks now, they have orchestrated an attack against my family, my job qualifications, and my character.”

In a separate press release, Warren accuses Brown of attacking her parents.

Brown said on Thursday: “My mom and dad have told me a lot of things too, but they’re not always accurate.”

Warren shot back that “My mother and father are not here to defend themselves and should be off limits. Don and Pauline Herring are not fair game and Scott Brown should apologize.”

Brown’s spokesman Colin Reed called Warren’s accusation a distraction.

“This is the second time Elizabeth Warren has made this pathetic and baseless accusation in an attempt to escape personal responsibility for spending five weeks misleading the press and the public,” Reed said. “With so many new questions piling up, she would be wise to come clean, stop the stonewalling and tell the truth, rather than making up frivolous and false attacks against Scott Brown.”

Warren in the e-mail to supporters acknowledges that she listed herself as Native American in a national law directory and to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

But she says she never benefited from the listing.

“The people involved in recruiting and hiring me for my teaching jobs, including Harvard professor Charles Fried — the solicitor-general under Ronald Reagan and a Scott Brown voter in 2010 — have said unequivocally they were not aware of my heritage and that it played no role in my hiring,” she writes.