Fight! NY Times Story Critical of Warren's DNA Test Hit as 'Bonkers' By Former NYT Editor

December 7th, 2018 2:19 PM

New York Times reporter Astead Herndon had an unwelcome surprise for Times readers on the front of Friday’s paper -- a bit of actual scrutiny of Democratic 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, based on her clumsy handling of a DNA test meant to prove she had Native American heritage: “Warren Facing Cloud of Anger Over DNA Test.”

The story got some pushback within the mainstream liberal media -- no surprise -- but from an unlikely source: the paper’s own former opinion page editor Andrew Rosenthal (recently in the news for his 1992 fake news attack on George H.W. Bush over a supermarket checkout scanner).

The plan was straightforward: After years of being challenged by President Trump and others about a decades-old claim of Native American ancestry, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would take a DNA test to prove her stated family origins in the Cherokee and Delaware tribes.

But nearly two months after Ms. Warren released the test results and drew hostile reactions from prominent tribal leaders, the lingering cloud over her likely presidential campaign has only darkened. Conservatives have continued to ridicule her. More worrisome to supporters of Ms. Warren’s presidential ambitions, she has yet to allay criticism from grass-roots progressive groups, liberal political operatives and other potential 2020 allies who complain that she put too much emphasis on the controversial field of racial science -- and, in doing so, played into Mr. Trump’s hands.

Herndon gave Warren the benefit of the doubt while being reasonably tough on her and her campaign team.

Ms. Warren’s allies also say she unintentionally made a bigger mistake in treading too far into the fraught area of racial science -- a field that has, at times, been used to justify the subjugation of racial minorities and Native Americans.

Ms. Warren has also troubled advocates of racial equality and justice, who say her attempt to document ethnicity with a DNA test gave validity to the idea that race is determined by blood -- a bedrock principle for white supremacists and others who believe in racial hierarchies....


Ms. Warren’s claim to Native American heritage first became an issue in her 2012 race for Senate, when The Herald reported that Harvard had once identified her as a member of a minority group when she was a law professor there. The Warren campaign at the time also confirmed she had listed herself as a minority member in a legal directory, but said she had done nothing wrong and said Native American ancestry had been part of her “family lore.”...

The Times' Rosenthal, who still writes occasional opinion pieces for the paper, stood up for Warren by indirectly running over his former colleague on Facebook, plugging an opinion piece by Paul Waldman of the Times’ national rival, the Washington Post, in which Waldman attacks Herndon’s article for the Times. Waldman wrote:

In a better world, after each presidential campaign, the news media would examine the weaknesses of its coverage and resolve not to repeat its mistakes. Alas, that is not the world we live in.

After outlets devoted thousands of column inches and hours on TV news to the vital issue of whether Hillary Clinton used the wrong email, there are signs it could happen all over again. I refer you to this article in Thursday’s New York Times about Elizabeth Warren, which examines the fallout from Warren’s decision to take a DNA test to see if, as she was told growing up by her parents and other relatives, she had some Native American ancestry.

Rosenthal cited Waldan’s piece approvingly, “Great column on why the coverage of Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test is ‘bonkers’.” (Waldman twice called the media's coverage of Warren and the test “bonkers.”)