In 8000 Word Story, NY Times Allows One Paragraph on Warren’s Ancestry Scandal

June 17th, 2019 12:11 PM

The New York Times Magazine on June 17 posted a mammoth, 8000-plus word profile on 2020 Democratic contender Elizabeth Warren. The headline for this very long article informed readers, “Elizabeth Warren Is Completely Serious.” The sub-headline sounded even more like a press release: “About income inequality. About corporate power. About corrupt politics. And about being America’s next president.” 



What’s mostly missing from this story by journalist Emily Bazelon is any substantive discussion of Warren’s disastrous attempt to claim Native American ancestry. Despite the fact that the New York Times is a liberal outlet known for opposing cultural appropriation, the entire scandal is relegated to a single paragraph of an 8147 word story.

After waiting until paragraph ten to address the topic, Bazelon dispatched the controversy:

Trump, meanwhile, was going after Warren by using the slur “Pocahontas” to deride her self-identification in the 1980s and ’90s as part Native American. In the summer of 2018, he said that if she agreed to take a DNA test in the middle of a televised debate, he would donate $1 million to her favorite charity. Warren shot back on Twitter by condemning Trump’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border (“While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas”). But a few months later, she released a video saying she had done the DNA analysis, and it showed that she had distant Native American ancestry. The announcement backfired, prompting gleeful mockery from Trump (“I have more Indian blood than she has!”) and sharp criticism from the Cherokee Nation, who faulted her for confusing the issue of tribal membership with blood lines. Warren apologized, but she seemed weaker for having taken Trump’s bait.

In case you are keeping count, that’s 173 words out of 8147 total. No mention of painfully awkward facts such as that Warren contributed to a Native American cookbook called Pow Wow Chow, calling herself Cherokee. And while there was plenty of talk about the professor’s time at Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, there was no mention that she represented herself as Native American at those schools.

(Note: The print edition of this Times Magazine profile of Warren will not be in the paper until June 23.) 

Instead, readers get gushing details about just how popular Warren was as a professor:

When Warren taught classes at Harvard, she would invite her students over for barbecue and peach cobbler during the semester. Some of them marveled at the polish and order, which tends not to be the norm in faculty homes.

Bazelon cheered how Warren wants to “end America’s second Gilded Age.”

As a presidential candidate, Warren has rolled out proposal after proposal to rewrite the rules again, this time on behalf of a majority of American families. On the trail, she says “I have a plan for that” so often that it has turned into a T-shirt slogan. Warren has plans (about 20 so far, detailed and multipart) for making housing and child care affordable, forgiving college-loan debt, tackling the opioid crisis, protecting public lands, manufacturing green products, cracking down on lobbying in Washington and giving workers a voice in selecting corporate board members. Her grand overarching ambition is to end America’s second Gilded Age.

Of course, Ronald Reagan’s presidency gets the blame for turning Warren to the left:

Then came Warren’s second turning point: President Ronald Reagan’s assault on government. Warren argues that Reagan’s skill in the 1980s at selling the country on deregulation allowed the safeguards erected in the 1930s to erode. Republicans seized on the opening Reagan created, and Democrats at times aided them. (Bill Clinton signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999.) That’s how the country arrived at its current stark level of inequality. “The system is as rigged as we think,” Warren wrote in her 2017 book “This Fight Is Our Fight” — in a riposte to Barack Obama, who insisted it was not, even as he recognized the influence of money in politics. This, Warren believes, is what Trump, who also blasted a rigged system, got right and what the Democratic establishment — Obama, both Clintons, Biden — gets wrong.

Bazelon is the same liberal Times writer who bashed now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a tweet last year: “He’s a 5th vote for a hard-right turn on voting rights and so much more that will harm the democratic process & prevent a more equal society.”