A CNN panel assailed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) Wednesday for still failing to put her claims of Native American ancestry behind her on the eve of her official presidential announcement.
After a successful soft launch to her 2020 candidacy with the formation of her exploratory committee in December, Warren found herself again answering tough questions on Tuesday when the Washington Post reported she listed her race as "American Indian" on a State Bar of Texas registration card in 1986. The paper published the card, showing Warren wrote in her race herself in blue ink.
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"I can’t go back," Warren said. "But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted."
Warren, who will officially launch her candidacy Saturday in Massachusetts, said in January she was not a "person of color." She already apologized to the Cherokee Nation after publishing a DNA test in October that purported to prove her longtime claims of Native American ancestry. The test showed she was, at most, 1/64th Native American.
CNN reporter MJ Lee said the story showed Warren's team still did not know how to handle what has become a "political mess."
"This makes it clear that this is in her own writing, and her team is not disputing the authenticity of this form," Lee said. "They are also not disputing that this is her own handwriting. I think it is very clear that her team has not figured out how to handle this. I think a lot of that just has to do with the fact that this is genuinely a very sensitive issue where they've had to tread very lightly."
"At every turn of this, there has not been a perfect solution or a way for them to get out of this political mess for them," she added. "Whether it was people calling on her to take the DNA test, whether it was people really viewing the video and the release of that test as a flop and then the whole apology last week. Again, I think this is not an issue that's going away for her because it is a difficult issue for her to handle. There is not a clear answer on how to deal with this."
CNN political director David Chalian marveled that it's been over six years that she's been dogged by a problem of her own making.
"It's six years she's been battling this charge against her," he said. "As you know, in the fall she took that DNA test. Then she had to apologize to the Cherokee Nation … You are just a couple days before your formal launch of your presidential campaign, and you are still apologizing for something you have been answering about for six years. I think it's fair to say you have not positioned yourself in a way to put this behind you as you begin to launch your presidential campaign."
Anchor Poppy Harlow suggested Warren had learned nothing from Hillary Clinton's inability to put her private email server scandal behind her throughout the 2016 campaign, while Lee said people with a negative view of Warren would have that opinion confirmed by this latest chapter.
"I think the point is up for the people who might already be inclined to question her motives here … I think this is just going to cement certain people who are already inclined to view her negatively," Lee said.