Speed Reads

History lessons

Trump incorrectly claimed to be Swedish for decades

On Monday evening, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) explained — as she has since her successful 2012 campaign to unseat Sen. Scott Brown (R) — that she believes she has Cherokee ancestry because "I learned about my family's heritage the same way everyone else does — from my parents and grandparents. I never asked for and never got any benefit from it." The prompt for this was President Trump trotting out his "Pocahontas" epithet during an event to honor Navajo code talkers, heroes of World War II.

Trump has used his nickname for Warren several times since 2016, usually suggesting incorrectly — as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did on Monday — that Warren used her claimed Native American ancestry for professional gain. Trump himself claimed, wrongly, to be of Swedish heritage as least until 1987 — he wrote in The Art of the Deal that his grandfather had come to the U.S. from Sweden. Actually, The Boston Globe reported last year and Axios recalled on Monday, Trump's father, Fred Trump, made up the Swedish ancestry after World War II so he wouldn't have problems selling apartments to Jewish buyers on account of his German heritage. (Friedrich Trump immigrated to New York from Germany in 1885.)

There is no evidence that Warren has any Native American ancestry, though as Garance Franke-Ruta detailed at The Atlantic in 2012, there's also zero evidence Warren "used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook." And Trump and Warren aren't alone — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) learned his parents didn't flee Fidel Castro's Cuba and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright learned her parents were Jewish only after the news media dug around a bit, after they were in public office.