After years of President Trump derisively referring to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” the Democratic senator and prospective presidential candidate on Monday took the extraordinary step of releasing a DNA analysis indicating “strong evidence” that she has “Native American ancestry.”
The report, posted on a new site devoted to dispelling rumors and attacks on her heritage and the personal stories of her upbringing, was conducted by Carlos Bustamante, a Stanford University professor with expertise in data science and genomics technology.
It concluded that the “vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European but that “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of six-10 generations ago.”
Of course, given the popularity of Trump’s “Pocahontas” line on the right, there were already indications Monday that the president and his allies would not be assuaged by any efforts verifying Warren’s claim to some Native American ancestry.
In a brief conversation with reporters outside the White House, the president reacted to Warren’s DNA findings by saying: “Who cares?”
Trump’s top White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was similarly dismissive. “I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion it seems some days,” she told CNN. “But I haven’t looked at the DNA test and it really doesn’t interest me.”
It was President Trump, however, who said at a rally in Montana this summer that he would give $1 million to charity should Warren take a DNA test proving her heritage claims.
“And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,’” Trump said. “And we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no, but we will hold it for the debates.”
On Monday, however, the president denied that he ever said such a thing.
“I didn’t say that. You better read it again,” he told reporters.
Warren, eager to remind him of the pledge, defiantly tweeted Monday that Trump should send a check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Accompanying the senator’s release of the report was a sweeping biographical video, the likes of which one could imagine playing during a presidential nominating convention.
In the short film, Warren spends time in her hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, while clips of President Trump are heard repeatedly calling her “Pocahontas”—the frequent attack he’s employed in a similar manner to to his repeated questioning of President Obama’s birth certificate.
Warren’s brothers—some of whom are registered Republicans—appear on-camera and call Trump’s epithet “ridiculous,” while the Massachusetts senator tells the story of how her parents met and how her paternal relatives opposed the marriage because of Warren’s mother being part Native American.
At the end of the video, Warren pivots to a defense of Native American citizens, saying, “Trump can say whatever he wants about me. But mocking Native Americans or any group in order to try to get at me, that’s not what America stands for.”
The fact that Warren decided to so transparently confront Trump’s repeated race-based criticism speaks to her seeming preparedness and eagerness to clear any doubts about her personal heritage ahead of a prospective national campaign.
Prior to Monday’s disclosure, the Boston Globe took an exhaustive look at Warren’s previous law-school hirings and determined that her background played no role in the jobs she attained throughout her career.
In addition to confronting perceived holes in her personal biography—a rite of passage for anyone who could come under the increased scrutiny of a presidential run—Warren has recently played an extraordinarily active role in elevating Democratic candidates for the midterms while keeping the door open for a potential 2020 run.
The Washington Post detailed an extensive operation she is shepherding to assist candidates, in addition to focusing on her own re-election campaign, which she is expected to win easily.
Warren has also introduced a broad set of legislative packages that include the lofty goals of overhauling corporate stake-holding rules, targeting corruption and the influence of lobbyists in Washington, and ameliorating America’s housing-segregation problem.
Asked explicitly about running at a recent town hall in Massachusetts, Warren said: “After November 6, I will take a hard look at running for president.”
UPDATE: The Cherokee Nation released a statement on Monday afternoon. “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely is inappropriate and wrong,” the tribe’s secretary of state wrote. “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven.”
The statement concluded: “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
—Jamie Ross contributed reporting.