Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) is calling on Harvard University President Drew Faust to correct its diversity statistics after it was revealed that his opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, was listed as a minority despite failing to meet federal guidelines to be considered Native American.
Brown's demand followed a Boston Globe report Friday showing that both Harvard, where Warren teaches law, and the federal government have specific criteria determining who can be listed as Native American in diversity statistics provided to the government, and that Warren does not meet those criteria. The report also showed that the university almost always based its statistics on how employees self-identify, calling into question Warren's claim that she was unaware Harvard had listed her as a minority.
Harvard did not respond to a phone message and email asking whether the university would accede to Brown's demand and correct its statistics.
Warren has repeatedly maintained that she is part Cherokee but never sought to benefit academically or professionally from her minority status. She told reporters on Thursday she knew she was Native American because her mother told her she was growing up, and said she would not succumb to Brown's attacks on her family.
“First of all, I’m highly offended that Elizabeth Warren would accuse me of attacking her family when I have done nothing of the kind. To make that kind of wild and baseless charge is disturbing," Brown said. "This Native American controversy is a problem of Elizabeth Warren’s own making. She falsely described herself as a minority and some of the schools where she worked relied on that information to misrepresent the diversity of their faculty."
Warren's campaign has tried to pivot away from the issue, saying she has
already answered questions about her heritage and pointing to statements
from faculty members at law schools where she taught insisting she was
hired on her merits. In a statement Friday, the campaign said it remained focused on issues of more importance to voters.
"Over the past month Elizabeth has answered countless questions openly while the people who recruited her have made it clear it was because of her extraordinary skill as a teacher and a groundbreaking scholar. She is proud of her family and her heritage, and it is something that her family talked about often when she was growing up. The fact that Elizabeth noted her heritage in a professional publication has been made public and addressed by Elizabeth on multiple occasions," said Warren spokeswoman Alethea Harney. "It’s time to focus on the important issues facing Massachusetts. Republican Senator Scott Brown is trying to distract people from his record voting for Wall Street, big oil and big increases in student loans. There are real issues middle class families are dealing with every day and that’s where Elizabeth is focused."
Although the controversy has dominated news coverage of Warren's race against Brown for the past month, polls show the issue has done little to damage her standing in the race, with voters largely shrugging off the allegations.
- This post was updated at 5:10 p.m.