BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren said Friday that she didn’t reveal until this week that she told past employers about her Native American ancestry because she needed more time to recall actions and events of years ago.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, the Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate, also addressed criticism that she had only recently revealed that she had disclosed her family heritage to Harvard and a previous employer, the University of Pennsylvania.
Warren spoke on the eve of the Democratic State Convention in Springfield, Mass., where she was expected on Saturday to receive the endorsement of delegates in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
Warren, who has not offered documentation of Native American heritage, has always maintained it arose from family lore. In the interview, she detailed further what she and her brothers had been told by their parents, the late Don and Pauline Herring.
“My mom and dad were deeply in love,” said Warren, who was raised in Oklahoma. My father wanted to marry my mother, his parents objected, because she was part-Cherokee and part-Delaware.”
“My parents eloped, in order to marry. It’s something my brothers and I grew up with. We always understood the difference, between our father’s family and our mother’s family,” she said.
She never sought proof of ancestry, Warren added, because she had not felt it necessary.
“My mother was proud of who she was, and it was an important part of who she was. Any my mother is an important part of me.”
Earlier this week, Warren’s campaign issued a statement in which she acknowledged, for the first time, that she had told Harvard and Penn of her Native American heritage, but only after she had been hired by both schools.
The statement appeared to represent a shift from her earlier stance that she only learned that Harvard had once touted her minority status when she read a story in the Boston Herald in April.
“You’re asking about things that happened 15, 20, 25 years ago or even longer,” she said. “I wanted to go back and really think through these long, long ago events.”
The key, she said, was that she never received any advantage from her Native American ancestry during her academic career.
She also said on Friday that she had no regrets about how she dealt with her heritage in the past.
There was little question that Warren would be endorsed by a solid majority of the 5,000 or so delegates chosen for the state convention, but the margin of the vote will be critical, as she is not the only Democrat seeking the party’s nomination.
Marisa DeFranco, an immigration attorney from Middleton, needs at least 15 percent of support from delegates to qualify for the September primary election ballot under party rules.
John Walsh, the state party chair, has predicted that DeFranco will meet the threshold, setting the stage for a contested primary that he thinks will ultimately benefit Democrats.
In a pre-convention conference call with reporters on Friday, Walsh defended Warren’s handling of the Native American controversy, and said Brown was trying to distract voters from shortcomings in his own record as senator.
“It is classic Scott Brown,” said Walsh. “Throw on the coat, get behind the horse trailer and throw out these kind of stupid, unprovoked attacks on the woman’s family.”
Seizing on a remark Brown made on Thursday, Walsh accused the Republican of crossing a line by suggesting that Warren’s parents were liars. Brown said in response to a question that he had also been told a lot of things by his own parents, “but they’re not always accurate.”
Colin Reed, a campaign spokesman for Brown, said Friday that Warren, who has demanded an apology from Brown, and her allies were making a “pathetic and baseless” accusation.
“With so many new questions piling up, Warren would be wise to come clean, stop the stonewalling and tell the truth, rather than make frivolous and false attacks against Scott Brown,” Reed said in a statement.
Warren said voters she had encountered on the campaign trail were unconcerned about the heritage question and were instead focused on economic issues affecting the middle class. She again criticized Brown for voting against a Democratic bill aimed at preventing interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1.
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