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Harvard Diversity Stats Put Warren In Hot Seat Again


Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren continues to be dogged by the question of if she has claimed American Indian heritage. Yesterday, in the wake of new allegations, Republican Senator Scott Brown accused Professor Warren of misleading Harvard about her Native American ethnicity. From member station WBUR in Boston, Fred Thys reports.

FRED THYS, BYLINE: A story in Friday's Boston Globe says that for six years, Harvard University reported to the federal government that it employed a Native American woman at the law school. In the past, Harvard has identified that woman as Elizabeth Warren. At Boston's Faneuil Hall yesterday, Senator Brown seized on the Globe story.

SENATOR SCOTT BROWN: And if she falsely reported and Harvard relied on that, then they need to correct the records. It's pretty simple.

THYS: The Globe reports that the federal government requires Harvard to gather statistics on the diversity of its employees. Those statistics are usually based on how employees identified themselves. Neither Harvard nor Warren has explained how the university came to list her as Native American. However, there's no evidence that Warren has ever falsely reported her ethnicity to the university. She's repeatedly said that she is part Indian and that she bases that conviction on family stories.

At a campaign event before the Globe published its story, Warren tried to turn the focus to a subject that matters to her.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I'm here today to support a new bill in Congress that takes the banking executives off the board of directors of the regional Federal Reserve Banks.

THYS: But the questions were mostly about her heritage.

WARREN: I think Scott Brown wants to hammer on my family and I think what matters to the voters of Massachusetts is how they've been hurt by his votes in the economy and how they've been hurt by his support of Wall Street.

THYS: So far, voters don't seem to care about Warren's ethnicity. A Suffolk University poll this week found that most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren's Native American heritage is a significant story. And the same poll found that despite all the questions, Warren has gained ground on Brown. In February, he was ahead by nine points. Now, he's ahead by one. For NPR News, I'm Fred Thys in Boston.


SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Fred Thys