Scott Brown's staffers' 'Indian war whoops' and 'tomahawk chops': The fallout

Some of the Massachusetts senator's top aides were caught mocking Brown's Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren. Is this a turning point in their closely fought race?

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) on March 22
(Image credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

At a rally for Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren last weekend, a couple of aides to her rival, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), classed things up by chanting "Indian war whoops" and making "tomahawk chops" — arm gestures popular at Atlanta Braves games — in an apparent attempt to mock Warren's familial claim to be part Cherokee and part Delaware Indian. A Democratic group caught the antics on video (watch below), and Boston TV station WCVB identified two of the chanters as GOP field coordinator Brad Garnett and Brown constituent services counsel Jack Richard. Asked about the video, Brown said Tuesday that he hadn't seen it but "it is certainly something that I don't condone." He added, though, that the "real offense" is Warren's use of her nominal Native heritage earlier in her career — the theme of back-and-forth TV ads in the increasingly heated, neck-and-neck race. Is this the point at which Brown's "fake Indian" attacks start hurting him instead of Warren?

Team Brown has finally gone to far: The "Warren isn't a real Indian" line has been drawing cheers from conservatives for months, "but it doesn't seem to have turned many voters away from Warren," says Garrett Quinn at Reason. Now, it's finally blown up in Brown's face. The borderline-racist antics would have turned off Baystaters in any case, but the involvement of his staffers "just adds fuel to the fire." Worse for Brown, these "Fauxcauhontas" attacks have also allowed Warren to "appear sympathetic and likable, something she's struggled with throughout the campaign."

"Brown staffers mock Warren with War Whoops, Tomahawk Chops"

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Warren's the one keeping this story alive: The Native American claim is "the issue that just won't go away" for Warren, who should be easily beating Brown in ultra-blue Massachusetts, says Margery Eagan in the Boston Herald. But she could make it disappear by admitting she messed up and making a "humanizing, humbling, courageous, and so very endearing" apology for claiming to be something she probably isn't. Brown's still in this race because "too many voters like him better." Warren has herself to blame.

"Elizabeth Warren, it's not too late to say 'sorry'"

The real casualty is Brown's good-guy image: Even before we saw "his idiotic underlings filmed making tomahawk chops and reciting ridiculous Indian chants," Brown was starting to act like a "frat house bully," says Brian McGrory in The Boston Globe. Warren is a weak-but-improving rival, and her "questionable claim to Native American heritage" is a legitimate issue, but now that he's starting to lose, Brown is killing his biggest asset: It's time to "stick a fork in the image — or, more ­accurately, the illusion — of Scott Brown as the affable everyman, the consummate good guy."

"Senator Scott Brown's illusion fades"

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