Boston Globe: “tone of her telling … appears to be inconsistent” with prior “lighthearted manner in which she described the same incident”
On Meet the Press last Sunday, Elizabeth Warren recounted an incident from her early professor days about a senior professor who allegedly sexually harassed her by lunging after her and chasing her around the desk in his office.
The NY Daily News reported on Warren’s story:
Warren recalled a former colleague early in her career asking her into his office and making a move for her. She remembered him “chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me.” Despite her pleas, he kept coming for her, so she made a quick escape for the door.
“I went back to my office and I just sat and shook,” Warren said, “And thought, ‘What had I done to bring this on?’”
Warren didn’t tell anyone about it except her best friend and that “for a long time, I wore a lot of brown.”
Here’s the transcript from the Meet the Press website:
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:
Yes, I have a “me, too” story too. I was a baby law professor and so excited to have my first real teaching job. And there was this senior faculty member who, you know, would tell dirty jokes and make comments about my appearance.
And one day he asked me if I would stop by his office, which I didn’t think much about. And I did. And he slammed the door and lunged for me. It was like a bad cartoon. He’s chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me.
And I kept saying, “You don’t want to do this. You don’t want to do this. I have little children at home. Please don’t do this.” And trying to talk calmly. And at the same time, what was flickering through my brain is, “If he gets hold of me, I’m going to punch him right in the face.”
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:
After several rounds, I jumped for the door and got out. And I went back to my office and I just sat and shook. And thought, “What had I done to bring this on?” And I told my best friend about it. Never said a word to anyone else. But for a long time, I wore a lot of brown.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:
What it means now that so many people have spoken out, is it’s a way to say, “We’re here for each other.” And it’s also a way to say, “No. It’s not about what you did. He’s the one who stepped out of line. And this is on him.”
Because of my extensive dealings reporting on Warren’s false claim to be Native American and misleading statements regarding her law practice representing major corporations, I viewed Warren’s statement with caution. She is the master of taking a kernel of truth (such as that there was some family talk of Native American heritage) and spinning it into a larger life narrative (that she was Native American).
But I have to say, even as a Warren-skeptic, I’m surprised at how quickly Warren’s Me Too story has been cast into doubt.
Jules Crittendon at The Boston Herald, which broke the story in late April 2012 of Warren’s claim to be Native American at Harvard, reports, Liz Warren’s ‘MeToo’ flip-flopped old tale:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren reportedly switched up her account of sexual harassment that she relayed this weekend in a televised #MeToo testimonial from an earlier “light-hearted” version….
But the Boston Globe reported last night that Warren recounted the same incident in a “more light-hearted manner” at a memorial service after the professor’s death in 1997 — an account the Globe noted was “inconsistent” with her story on Sunday.
“During the service after his death in 1997, Warren spoke fondly of law professor Eugene Smith and told the gathered mourners she was laughing as Smith chased her around his desk, according to a colleague’s memoir,” the Globe reported.
The author of the memoir, John Mixon, told the paper, “I may have been wrong saying she was laughing,” adding that he was writing about the service 15 years after the fact.
The paper also noted that Warren failed to mention on “Meet The Press” that Smith had polio.
The Globe said Warren told the broadsheet yesterday she shared the story at the memorial service as a statement about Smith’s authority.
“It was 20 years later, and he didn’t have power over me any more,” Warren told the newspaper, which noted she was by then a Harvard law professor.
Here’s more detail on how the Globe reported it, This isn’t the first time Warren spoke about that office incident:
When Senator Elizabeth Warren on Sunday told a national television audience a personal story of sexual harassment from her days as a young law professor, she described a harrowing incident that left her shaken. She said that she wondered if she’d done something to deserve it and that she told no one but a close friend.
But the tone of her telling, recounted on NBC’S “Meet the Press,’’ appears to be inconsistent with the reportedly more lighthearted manner in which she described the same incident two decades after it occurred, during the memorial service for the senior University of Houston faculty member she accused of pursuing her around his office….
She did not directly answer when asked if she spoke fondly of Smith at his memorial or if she told mourners she was laughing as Smith tried to grab her in his office.
“I made it clear that I was just fine,” was all she said.
The contrasting accounts would appear to highlight the evolution of Warren’s approach to dealing with the episode. That evolution took
place amid changing attitudes about harassment and increasing empowerment of women to speak up….
Warren told “Meet the Press’’ that the incident left her shaking and shocked and that she told only her best friend what had happened. “Never said a word to anyone else,” she said.
She did not mention that Smith had suffered from polio, which affected his mobility, nor did she mention she spoke at his service.
Warren told the Globe Monday she was conflicted about speaking at Smith’s service. He had asked her to do so while he was dying, she said.
At the service, Warren “described Gene’s chasing her around the desk in uncontrolled lust while she laughed, equally uncontrolled, as she avoided his crab-like grasp,” John Mixon, a former colleague of Warren’s at the University of Houston Law Center, wrote in a 577-page book, called “Autobiography of a Law School,” a memoir that chronicles the law school’s history.
Warren told the Globe she made the trip to the memorial service “because I was fine, and I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t,” she said.
She added that she hadn’t seen Mixon’s description of her relationship with Smith before the Globe inquired about it, but she pointed to a phrase — “she would have none of it” — that Mixon used to describe her attitude toward Smith’s advances.
It must have been hard for the Globe to call attention to this change in the story. The Globe was extremely favorable to Warren during the 2012 Senate campaign running cover on the Native American scandal, and has helped build up Warren’s current narrative of religious devotion.
This is classic Warren. There appears to be a kernel of truth – something happened with the old polio-stricken professor, but what Warren once viewed in a light-hearted almost-laughable manner now becomes a major part of her life and political narrative, because it’s politically opportune to portray it that way now.
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