Accuracy in Media

The Daily Beast published a piece heralding the release of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) DNA ancestry as vindication for the Democratic Party and a loss for President Trump.

Warren released her results to prove her Native American ancestry. She has long claimed Native heritage — she changed her ethnicity from white to Native American during her time as a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. This decision led her to be named the first woman of color to become a professor at Harvard Law.

Skeptics have long mocked Warren citing her grandfather’s “high cheekbones” as proof, and Trump has referred to the senator as “Pocahontas” poking fun at her alleged ties.

The Daily Beast piece, headlined, “Elizabeth Warren Fights Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Taunt With DNA Test Proving Native American Roots,” begins by defending the “extraordinary” decision to release the DNA results.

“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.”

Rather than dig further into the story, the Daily Beast praised Warren for her transparency.

“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.”

The story preemptively dismissed any doubts about the report.

“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.”

But Warren’s results do not align with the ancestry she has touted.

The report does show “strong evidence” that Warren had a Native American ancestor “6-10 generations ago,” meaning that the Native American share of her DNA falls between 1.5 percent and 0.09 percent.

According to the Genetic Literacy Project, European American genomes, on average, have 0.18 percent Native American DNA — meaning that Warren has no more Native American DNA than the average white American, and in fact may have less.

“That timing fits Warren’s family lore, passed down during her Oklahoma upbringing, that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American,” the Boston Globe reported. But “[i]f O.C. Sarah Smith were fully Native American, that would make Warren up to 1/32nd native. But the generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.”

“If you’re like most people, a sliver of Native American coding in your DNA is no more than a colorful bit of family trivia,” the Globe wrote. “The only reason it has been treated as such a big deal in Warren’s case is because she herself long ago puffed it up into the claim that she was a racial minority”

Warren has claimed her mother had enough Native American – Cherokee and Delaware, specifically — for her father’s parents to object to their wedding. Based on these results, her father’s parents would have had to identify her from her 1/512 native heritage.

The samples chosen to compare Warren’s DNA was of Peruvian, Colombian, and Mexican DNA, meaning the proof does not definitively say Cherokee, just that she had, at one point, a Native American relative. There is no proof her ancestor was Cherokee.

The Cherokee Nation released a statement in response 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: “Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

“The problem is that, when you strip away all of the glitz of her well-produced video, you are left with this: There’s still no certainty that Warren is, in any meaningful way, Native American,” CNN’s Chris Cillizza said.

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