On Monday’s front page, The Washington Post promoted “liberal hero” Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat looking to retake the “Ted Kennedy seat” in the Senate. “Stakes high as liberal hero tries to unseat GOP senator,” read the headline. On Sunday, the Post’s Chris Cillizza said Warren had the “Worst Week in Washington” for her muddled answers to claiming she was of Native American heritage in professor jobs for a decade.
But it wasn’t the “worst week” in the Post – they ran no news story on the controversy until Monday, but in this Karen Tumulty story, it was completely buried until paragraph twenty:
Instead, the story opened at an AFL-CIO breakfast in Lawrence, Massachusetts, selling that odd-sounding concept, the Harvard professor/populist: “She was standing Friday morning on the site where, 100 years ago, immigrant textile workers launched a bloody two-month walkout that became famous as the Bread and Roses strike.”
“They attacked collective bargaining...they’ve attacked pensions. They’ve attacked wages. They’ve attacked health care. They have attacked unions. They have attacked working families,” she said of conservatives (or as Tumulty put it, “Wall Street and their political allies.”) All that was on the front page.
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If you ever wonder whether the newspapers carefully calculate where to break up their stories to go off the front page, the words "AFL-CIO breakfast" were the first words buried inside in the Tumulty piece.
Inside, the headline was “Liberal icon aims to oust Sen. Brown in Massachusetts.” (At least there's an actual ideological label next to "hero" and "icon.") Tumulty touted her as “the whip-smart daughter of a cast-strapped maintenance man and a mother who worked answering phones for Sears.”
She also suggested the Post spin could be on the losing side: “Whether that will sell against Republican efforts to define her as a Harvard elitist and an anti-business extremist, however, remains to be seen.”
In paragraph 20, the spin on the native-American scandal was in the subhead: “A stumble on ancestry.” Some Democrats were concerned, but Tumulty had sympathy for the “liberal icon” on this one:
By November, voters may well have dismissed it as a minor flap. But the fact that the story is still being talked about more than a week after it broke (it was on the front page of Saturday’s Boston Globe) reflects Warren’s clumsiness in handling it. She claimed, for instance, that she had listed herself as Native American in a legal directory for nearly a decade because she wanted to “meet others like me.”
It also overshadowed embarrassing developments for Brown, including his acknowledgment that even though he opposed the new health-care law, he takes advantage of a provision in it to put his adult daughter on the family’s insurance policy.