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Sen. Brown: Harvard must fix Native American claim

By Steve LeBlanc
Associated Press / May 25, 2012
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BOSTON—U.S. Sen. Scott Brown called on Harvard University to "correct the record" Friday after reporting for six years that it had a Native American woman in its top law school staff -- an apparent reference to Brown's chief Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren.

Brown said the school may have violated federal guidelines by making the claim on mandated diversity statistics.

Warren has said she wasn't aware that Harvard Law School was promoting her as Native American, but the Boston Globe reported that the statistics are typically based on the way employees describe themselves.

"She needs to answer the question ... about why she claimed Native American status when in fact she is not," Brown told reporters Friday. "As a result of that representation, Harvard and other schools relied on it and they've made a reporting to the federal government."

"Now that Harvard and others know that she's not, they need to correct the record," Brown added.

Harvard issued a comment Friday saying the university "adheres to the Department of Education and Department of Labor regulations and guidance concerning the reporting of race and ethnicity."

A Warren campaign spokeswoman said Friday that Warren has already answered "countless questions" about her ancestry and that "it's time to focus on the important issues facing Massachusetts."

"The fact that Elizabeth noted her heritage in a professional publication has been made public and addressed by Elizabeth on multiple occasions," Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney said in a statement."

Warren on Thursday again said she has Native American ancestry, saying she was told of her background by her mother.

"This is how I live," she said. Her campaign has been unable to offer direct documentary proof of that ancestry.

Warren also said Brown's focus on her heritage is a way of distracting from the economic issues that matter most to Massachusetts families.

"Scott Brown has launched attacks on my family. I am not backing off from my family," Warren added.

Brown, a Republican, said he was "offended" by Warren's comments, saying there's no evidence that he's ever attacked her family, calling it "a wild and baseless charge."

"This Native American controversy is a problem of Elizabeth Warren's own making," Brown said.

Brown's campaign has zeroed in on the Native American issue in recently weeks, accusing Warren of trying to use the claims to gain an unfair hiring advantage.

Warren's campaign has offered quotes from officials at the law schools where she worked saying they were either unaware of her claims of Native American ancestry or those claims had no influence on their hiring decision.

Also Friday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a Democrat who has praised Brown and hasn't endorsed Warren, criticized the focus on Warren's heritage, saying it's not relevant to the campaign and was distracting from more important issues like education, housing and crime.

During her long career as a law school professor, Warren has sometimes presented herself as having Native American heritage and other times stated she was not a minority.

She has acknowledged listing herself as a minority in law school directories from the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995, years when she was teaching at the University of Texas and the University of Pennsylvania.

The University of Pennsylvania also identified Warren as a minority in a report on the status of minority faculty, and in 1996, a Harvard Law School spokesman referred to Warren as Native American in an article in the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson.

Warren said she didn't know how Harvard came to list her as Native American.

At other times, Warren declined to identify herself as a minority.

On her application to Rutgers Law School, Warren wrote "No" in response to the question: "Are you interested in applying for admission under the Program for Minority Group Students?"

And on a personnel file from the University of Texas, Warren checked the box "White" when asked to select "the racial category or categories with which you most closely identify." The categories included a box for "American Indian or Alaska Native," which Warren did not check.

A poll released Wednesday showed the race is a virtual dead heat.

The poll of 600 likely Massachusetts general election voters found 48 percent back Brown and 47 percent support Warren. That's well within the poll's margin of error of four percentage points.

The Suffolk University and WHDH-TV poll also indicates that lingering questions about Warren's claims of Native American ancestry isn't seen as a major issue for most voters.

The May 20-22 poll found that while 72 percent of voters were aware of questions surrounding Warren's heritage, 69 percent said they didn't feel it was a significant story and 49 percent said Warren was telling the truth about being part Native American.

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