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WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Numerous Media Outlets Liken Republican Scott Brown's Racially Insensitive Mudslinging to Right-Wing "Birther" Movement

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2012
Contact: Mathew Helman, Communications Director
E-mail:, Cell: 617-821-8004

BOSTON - The notorious "birther" movement, as it has come to be known, is a right-wing fringe effort that has tried to convince the American electorate that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that his birth certificate is a forgery.  The "birther" movement has not only been debunked, but has been roundly dismissed for its conspiracy theory-style lunacy.

In Massachusetts' 2012 U.S. Senate race, Republican Scott Brown has decided to make the primary focus of his campaign a series of racially insensitive attacks on his opponent.  Rather than focus on important issues or on his record in the U.S. Senate, Republican Scott Brown's primary focus has been his opponent's race and heritage.  He has released two television advertisements on the topic and has even released an attack website against his opponent featuring language including "Fake Indian."  Further, his campaign has been thoroughly criticized in the media after Scott Brown staffers were videotaped making "tomahawk chop" gestures and "war whoop" noises mocking Native Americans.

Republican Scott Brown's campaign has been so predicated on these racial attacks throughout 2012 that numerous media outlets have compared Brown's racially insensitive campaign to the "birther" movement over the course of the year.

It's the "birther" argument, reframed. Four years ago, the question was where the presidential candidate was born. Today, it's a debate over the Senate candidate's DNA.  Sen. Scott Brown's campaign for re-election over challenger Elizabeth Warren so far has touched on only the fringes of the issues such as the economy, the environment, the military or the budget, focusing instead on an unbelievably distracting discussion of Warren's Native American heritage, or lack thereof. [New Bedford Standard-Times, "Our View: Brown Warren race is driving us to distraction," 9/27/12]

The inexcusable actions by Republican staff members, including an aide to Senator Scott Brown, warrant apologies to American Indians and to Elizabeth Warren. But the fault for such reprehensible actions lies also with Brown and his strategists. Their decision to attack Warren's character and ancestry so relentlessly clearly encouraged unhealthy behavior within his campaign organization.  Brown's refusal to accept Warren's explanation of her belief in her Cherokee and Delaware descent is eerily similar to so-called birthers' insistence that President Obama was born outside the United States.  For all his claims to be an independent, bipartisan senator, Brown is behaving remarkably like a Tea Partier. [Boston Globe, "Attacks on Warren's heritage lead to low blows," 9/29/12]

Elizabeth Warren's ancestry has come under attack from the campaign of Scott Brown and, in close coordination, by the Boston Herald. Like the birther nonsense that Obama has had to deal with, Warren is being criticized by Brown's allies for claiming to be a member of a minority. Let's not assume the genealogy was done by the Boston Herald, which broke the story. They have barely enough money to deliver the paper, much less do an in-depth analysis of Warren's history. No, this surely came from opposition research provided by Brown or his supporters. [WBUR, "Is Scott Brown A Birther?," 5/22/12]

The Republican approach to race is to feign that it is irrelevant -- until it becomes politically advantageous to bring it up. Birthers question Obama's state of origin (and implicitly his multiracial heritage) in efforts to disqualify him from the presidency. They characterize him as "other." For Warren, Massachusetts Republicans place doubts on her racial claims to portray her as an opportunistic academic seeking special treatment. In both birther camps, opponents look to ancestral origins as the smoking gun, and ride the ambiguity for the duration. [New York Times, "Elizabeth Warren's Birther Moment," 5/4/12]

On Tuesday, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) went birther on Elizabeth Warren. "Serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native American ancestry," Brown said in a statement released to the press. [...] By jumping into this controversy, Brown seems to be embracing the same tortured, birther-esque arguments as the conservatives who are trying to paint Warren (and her great-great-great-uncle) as a liar. Perhaps the better question is why Brown is raising these "serious questions" to begin with. [Mother Jones, "Scott Brown Goes Birther on Elizabeth Warren," 5/9/12]

Political Cartoon by Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe, "A familiar plan," 5/18/12


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