Massachusetts Senate candidate and Harvard University Professor Elizabeth Warren (D) said for the first time Wednesday night that she told Harvard she was Native American in the 1990s.
"At some point after I was hired by them, I ... provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard," she said in a statement to the Boston Globe. "My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I'm proud of it and I have been open about it."
She has faced more than a month of questions about whether she actually has Native American blood and whether Harvard and Penn used her to inflate statistics about how many minority professors they had tenured at a time when both were under fire for a lack of diversity on their staffs.
Warren said she was proud of her heritage, which has been part of her family lore for generations, and said initially she had listed herself as Native American in faculty directories in hopes of meeting others like her. She cited her grandfather’s high cheekbones as a reason her family believed it had native blood.
Meanwhile, genealogists tasked with charting her ancestry found no solid evidence that any of her relatives were Native American.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) endorsed Warren Wednesday night, but questions around her ethnic background dominated local papers' headlines on Thursday, a sign that the issue continues to be a major distraction from her campaign and is forcing her off-message.
While the story has generated scores of unflattering headlines for Warren, it so far has had no impact in the polling on her race against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).