Warren Apologizes After WaPo Publishes New Record Showing She Claimed Native Heritage

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Two hours before the State of the Union, Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued her first public apology for claiming Native American heritage.


The Washington Post reported on Tuesday evening that Warren claimed to be “American Indian” on a handwritten registration card for the State Bar of Texas. Warren signed the card, dated April 4, 1986, which was obtained by the Post through a public records request:

While this wasn’t the first instance in which Warren checked the box, the Post’s article was accompanied by a statement of apology from Warren. While brief, the statement marks the first time Warren has publicly apologized for her claims about her Native heritage claims.

“I can’t go back,” Warren told the Post. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”

Warren reached out to apologize to Cherokee Nation chief Bill John Baker last week by way of a private phone call, which was kept under wraps until the Intercept broke the news on Thursday. A Cherokee Nation spokesperson did not respond to Splinter’s request for comment regarding the particulars of that apology, but speaking with the Post about her talk with Baker, Warren said the two had a good conversation. Warren apologized to Baker “for furthering confusion about tribal citizenship,” and “for not being more mindful about this decades ago,” the paper reported.

While this all sounds like a decent play on paper, the calculated nature of Warren’s responses (or non-responses) to past heritage claims since her DNA test video reveal leave a good amount to be desired for Native Americans. It’s unclear whether Wednesday’s apology was a conveniently timed plant by the Warren staff or if the Post getting the goods prompted them to encourage the presidential candidate to speak out on the issue. Regardless, the timing of the apology, and the decision not to address specific actions, felt like more of the same—a politically motivated reaction to a situation that could have been buried long ago if her team had thought to listen to a Native person first and then act. Instead, just like the past three months, the next year-and-a-half seems destined to be filled with these kinds of piecemeal explanations, at least until enough non-Natives moan about how tired they are of hearing about our issues and everyone else decides to move on, or until Warren speaks out about this issue in a more substantive way.


Until then, we’ll have to make do with admirable tax policies and two-sentence apologies.