The state Democratic Party says a video released on Sept. 25 depicts Brown staffers making tomahawk chops and Indian war whoops during a rally. They believe it's intended purpose was to mock Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American ancestry. The party identified two people in the video as the Senator's constituent services counsel and his deputy chief of staff.
A Massachusetts Republican party spokesman confirmed that one of its field coordinators, Brad Garnett, is seen leading whoops and making tomahawk gestures.
At a campaign stop early in the day, Senator Brown said he hadn’t seen the video: “The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim to be somebody, being a Native American, that she used for an advantage, a tactical advantage.”
This video comes on the heels of a new campaign ad from Brown repeating doubt about Warren’s Native American heritage.
For her part, Warren defended herself in her own campaign ad, saying,
"Let me be clear. I never asked for, never got any benefit because of my heritage. The people who hired me have all said they didn't even know about it.”
The Native American issue was a lightning rod in their first debate on Sept. 20 when Brown started the debate questioning Warren's character. Does this issue resonate with voters? A Sept. 17 poll from Suffolk University showed 79 percent percent of likely voters were aware of the controversy concerning Warren’s heritage. Of those, only 22 percent believe she benefited by listing herself as a minority hire.
So why is Brown renewing the Native American controversy?
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, thinks Brown is probably just trying to reframe the election.
"It's shifting the focus away from votes he's taken and shifting the conversation to character and characteristics," he says. "We've seen a number of stories bubble up which have been designed to put Elizabeth Warren on the defensive and reframe those positions."
Brown is also attacking Warren on another issue. Sept. 25 opened with news reports saying she worked on behalf of a coal mining company in a bankruptcy case in the 1990s. The company, LTV Steel, was fighting a federal requirement to pay additional money into a health care fund for retired coal miners. And in 2009, Warren represented another corporate client, Travelers Insurance, when it was facing massive asbestos poisoning claims.
Brown says Warren's legal work counters her image as a fighter for the middle class.
The Warren campaign released a statement about LTV Steel, saying the case was limited to protecting the bankruptcy system and “there was never any question that coal miners and their surviving spouses would receive their full benefits.”