In an unintended consequence of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s first steps toward becoming the Democrat Party’s 2020 presidential candidate, an article at the Huffington Post demonstrated the pitfalls that the Massachusetts official has run into after declaring she is only a tiny bit Native American.
After Jennifer Bendery, the liberal website’s senior politics reporter, claimed that the mainstream media is “blowing Its coverage” of Warren’s DNA test, the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) accused HuffPost of producing “a shallow analysis to a complicated, emotionally charged topic.”
In its statement on Thursday, the organization expressed “concern” that Bendery “oversimplified a complex topic that is critically important to Indigenous communities” with “negligent and irresponsible” reporting:
This analysis is not only inaccurate, it is a disservice to audiences that may not be familiar with how charged Warren’s DNA results have been and betrays the trust and agency of Indigenous communities most impacted.
The idea that a handful of Indigenous people can speak for the majority is deeply rooted in hurtful stereotypes, colonial attitudes and ideas of racial superiority.
Bendery’s article “minimizes the consequences and concern surrounding Warren’s DNA test results by comparing them to issues like domestic abuse, teen suicide and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” the association added.
The NAJA also expressed the hope that “Bendery, her editors and staff at Huffington Post reflect on this ethical negligence, apologize for their insensitive reporting and employ substantive changes to improve their analysis of issues affecting Indigenous communities.”
In conclusion, the association “also recommends that Huffington Post reporters take part in cultural sensitivity training to avoid publishing such errors in the future.”
On Friday afternoon, the Huffington Post responded: “HuffPost respectfully disagrees with NAJA’s characterization of this story. We stand by our reporting and the perspectives reflected in the piece.”
In a tweet promoting her article, Bendery noted: “Missing from so much of the news coverage of Native people being outraged by Elizabeth Warren's DNA test: Native voices.”
“I asked prominent tribal leaders and Native people about it,” she tweeted. “Surprise: They said Warren is an ally and this narrative is media fodder.”
Sneed added, “All it takes is for one person to say they’re offended, and then everybody does a dog pile.”
However, Amber Athey -- the White House correspondent for the Daily Caller website – discussed the situation on Friday and stated that Bendery’s claim “was dependent on interviews with just two tribal chiefs -- and there are 573 tribes throughout the nation.”
Interestingly enough, the HuffPost reporter also spoke to a representative of the organization that is now chiding her -- Doug George-Kanentiio, a co-founder of the NAJA -- who "has criticized the media’s reliance on Chuck Hoskin Jr., the secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, as a primary source of Warren criticism.”
“No one bothered to contact the principal chief of Cherokee Nation to see if he agreed,” George-Kanentiio is quoted as saying in the HuffPost article.
However, the Cherokee Nation later made it clear that Hoskin Jr. was speaking on behalf of the organization when he said that Warren’s DNA test was “wholly unhelpful” to Native Americans.
As a result, the NAJA also stated that Bendery demonstrated “an alarming lapse in fact checking, a fundamental misunderstanding of tribal politics and governmental structure and a deplorable error in sourcing.”