Media, Democrats Question Warren's Native American Announcement: 'Really Poor Timing'

Durbin: 'I don't know why she picked today'

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren / Getty Images
October 15, 2018

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D., Mass.) release of a DNA test showing "strong evidence" she had Native American ancestry was met with skepticism and criticism from some Democrats and members of the media on Monday, due to its timing just weeks ahead of the November midterms.

Warren, who looks like an assured 2020 White House candidate, fired back at President Donald Trump's "Pocahontas" attacks over the years with a DNA test's analysis showing she could be between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American. Those scant numbers were met with derision by conservatives, with a Republican Party spokesman noting that could make her less Native American than the average European-American.

President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted frustration with Warren over the timing, wondering why Democrats can't "ever stay focused."

"Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???" he wrote.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said she wasn't sure why she picked Monday to do this.

"I don't know why she picked today," Durbin said on CNN. "Elizabeth's a busy woman. I work with her every week, almost every day of every week, and I'm sure this wasn't the highest priority for her, but after all the ridicule she's taken from this president ... to establish she does have Native American heritage, I think it's an important issue in her life."

Jen Psaki, who was a spokesman on the 2012 Obama campaign before joining the State Department in his second term, called the timing "weird" on CNN.

"It's sort of a weird time to do it, but maybe not," she said on "The Lead," "because she is trying to do it at a busy time where there a lot of other news, a lot of other politics in the news."

CNN political commentator Joe Trippi said he would have released such a test "a year or two" ago. CNN reporter Manu Raju told Jake Tapper on Monday that Warren released the test on Monday because her office got the results on Friday.

Others had similar reactions to Messina about Warren's timing.

"I sure hope Elizabeth Warren can flip that critical MA Senate seat! #timing," liberal journalist Tom Watson sarcastically tweeted. Warren is expected to easily win re-election in Massachusetts, a deep blue state Hillary Clinton carried handily in 2016.

"Why didn’t Elizabeth Warren hold on to the results of her study until Trump raised the issue again? Raising it herself just before the midterms seems like the most disadvantageous timing," software developer Dave Winer wrote.

CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin asked Idaho gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan (D.) a member of the Coeur d’Alene Native American tribe, on Monday about what she thought of the timing of Warren's move.

"Why do you think she did this, though? And why do you think she did this now?" Baldwin asked.

"I think it's important for people to realize that there are a lot of people around the country who are identifying with their heritage more and more," Jordan said. "In fact, the Kellogg Foundation recently released a study to show that 36 percent of Americans are identifying with their Native ancestry, and like everybody else, they're looking for their way, like Senator Warren, she's searching for her own heritage, and we should be respectful of that."

"So I'm wondering, do you have any problem with her, you know, getting this DNA test in the first place, just based upon the president's taunting her?" Baldwin asked.

Jordan ignored the question and said Trump's conduct was "unfortunate," although she added again people should be "respectful" of Warren "searching" for her heritage.

CNN "New Day" anchor Alisyn Camerota asked her panel Monday morning why Warren's rebuttal came out Monday.

"Why release it today?" she asked. "Why go to the length of interviewing all of her former colleagues and her family to try to rebut something about her ancestry?"

New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin said it showed two things: Warren is running for president in 2020, and she will run in a confrontational manner against Trump. He said she could fear suffering the fate of another Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, who lost to George W. Bush in 2004 and was viewed as not responding forcefully enough to "Swift Boat" attacks against his Vietnam War record.

RealClearPolitics columnist A.B. Stoddard reported on MSNBC's "Deadline White House" that Democrats are "not really happy" about Warren's maneuver.

"There are a lot of Democrats who had to wake up this morning and answer questions about Hillary Clinton's bone-headed comments [about Monica Lewinsky] yesterday, and they're not really happy with the fact Elizabeth Warren did this 22 days before the midterms and give Republicans a shiny object to keep talking about and fundraising over," she said.

"It was really poor timing on her part," she added. "She should have waited to launch her campaign until after the morning of November 7 ... It wasn't well-received by people who are really worried about whether or not the party has lost ground in the polls in the last couple weeks, and they really want to take the House back, and they don't want to focus on this woman in her 70s running for president."

Warren claimed she was Native American while teaching law school at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard in the 1980s and 1990s, and Harvard even boasted of her being its first "woman of color" it had hired. She said her background had no effect on her being hired, and she released a campaign-style video about her family lore and the DNA test on Monday.

For his part, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) said he was glad Warren would not be "bullied" by Trump, although he also said it was "unfortunate" she had to take the test.