Elizabeth Warren Will Not Take the 'Spit Test' to Prove Her Heritage

Illustration for article titled Elizabeth Warren Will Not Take the 'Spit Test' to Prove Her Heritage
Image: Screengrab from Meet the Press

On Tuesday, the editorial board of the Massachusetts paper the Berkshire Eagle declared that Elizabeth Warren should “spit into a tube” to once and for all shut down Trump’s “Pocahontas” jabs and the years-long Republican accusations that she used her Native American heritage in order to further her career. On Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press,” Warren declined.


Per the Eagle:

There are now so many commercial DNA heritage-tracking labs in business that they advertise on television. The going rate for one of the most popular tests is $99. All the senator needs to do is spit into a tube, wait a few weeks and get her answer. No matter if the test came up negative or positive, it would constitute a plus for Warren and her political hopes.

Were she to test positive for Native American DNA, it would permanently resolve the issue — while possibly shutting down President Trump.

Even a negative test result, the Eagle argued, would present “an opportunity for the senator to perform an act rarely seen among politicians: an admission of her error and a full-throated apology to Native American tribes and anyone else offended by her spurious claim.”

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Warren told Chuck Todd she grew up with the story that her parents eloped because her father’s family disapproved of her mother’s part Cherokee and part Delaware heritage.

“That’s the story that my brothers and I all learned from our mom and our dad, from our grandparents and our aunts and uncles. It’s a part of me and nobody’s going to take that part of me away.” Her siblings have all confirmed the claim.

Chuck Todd wondered why she wouldn’t do it just to be sure.

“I had a great grandmother who swore my family was related to Robert E. Lee,” he said. “And then I had a grandmother who did a whole bunch of genealogy research, and it turned out we were related to some Lees, just not Robert E. Lee. What’s wrong with knowing?”


“I know who I am,” Warren said. “Never used it for anything, never got any benefit for it anywhere.”

Her heritage became an issue in her 2012 run when opponent Scott Brown accused her of lying, evinced purely because she appears white. “Professor Warren claimed that she was a Native American, a person of color,” he said during a debate. “And as you can see, she’s not.”


In 2012, the Boston Globe reported that, while Warren “either listed herself as white, or did not mention ethnicity at all” in official documents for her former employers at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School, though she later announced that she verbally informed them at some point. Boston.com reported that she listed herself “minority” in the Association of American Law Schools directory of law professors.

Nevertheless, Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried, who recruited Warren to Harvard, called the claims “totally stupid, ignorant, uninformed and simply wrong.” He said that when presenting her case to the faculty, he “did not mention her Native American connection because I did not know about it.”


In 2016, bioethicist Nanibaa’ Garrison told the Washington Post that a DNA test would probably prove inconclusive anyway, since “most ancestry-informative markers” are “based on global populations that are outside of the U.S.”

Last year, the Hill reported that Shiva Ayyadurai, who was running for the Republican senate nomination in her state, sent her a DNA test on her birthday. She reportedly sent it back.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo



Not to say that Elizabeth Warren has any native heritage to find, but I’m surprised so many people seem to have so much faith in these DNA tests. People treat the most like they’re solid science, but they’re barely more trustworthy than your horoscope. You can get different results depending on which company you use, because all they’re doing is comparing your DNA to the people they have in their databases. And since the contributors are self-selecting, their data pools are frequently not especially diverse and thus tend to be less effective for people whose most recent ancestors weren’t all European. There are no definitive DNA markers for race or ethnicity, so while a test might be useful in helping to guide you in a particular direction for your genealogical research, it’s not nearly as reliable as tracing back birth records (not that those are always available, obviously!).