Elizabeth Warren 2011: Actually, I left my first teaching job because I became interested in law school
There’s no smoking gun in this clip that will convince Warren defenders that she’s been fibbing in insisting that she was fired from her first teaching job for being pregnant, a claim she’s made since, oh, right around the time she first became a U.S. senator with national ambitions. But it’s a good catch by Tommy Christopher at Mediaite nonetheless. Watch the beginning of the clip below, which was recorded in 2011, and you’ll find her giving a mundane explanation for why she changed her focus early in life from teaching to law. Her husband had been transferred to New Jersey, she had always been told in high school that she was a good debater, she noticed there was a law school nearby in Newark, and after giving it a look she thought, “Why not?”
No mention there of her being unceremoniously tossed out of her teaching job for the crime of being pregnant, although obviously she’s telling a truncated version of what happened. She does refer in passing at one point to “a whole series of quick events” that occurred between the time she shifted from teaching to law. Could one of those events have been sex discrimination by the school board on account of pregnancy, with Warren simply neglecting to specify it? She *has* said in recent years that she didn’t begin opening up about personal things in interviews until much later in life.
But watch later in the clip (at 7:38). She talks about graduating from law school when she was nine months pregnant and says, “I thought I’d stepped off the train. You know, hard enough to get a job for a woman then, I was about to have a baby and nobody was interested in me.” If discrimination based on pregnancy was part of her professional journey in law and she was willing to say so, you would think she also might have mentioned at some point in the clip that she’d already experienced that type of discrimination once before. E.g., “In fact, one of the reasons I left teaching was because the school board that gave me my first job fired me for being pregnant, then dressed it up in the official record as a ‘resignation.’ Now here I was again as a law-school graduate facing the same cold shoulder.”
If she was willing to talk about pregnancy’s effect on her legal job prospects, why omit the detail about its effect on her educational job prospects? Unless, as Christopher says, there was no discrimination to account for why she left her teaching job. Maybe her original story about why she left it, concluding that “I don’t think this is going to work out for me” after taking a few graduate classes in education, was the true one after all.
But maybe this clip is also her way out of this mess. If she wants to showcase her personal experience with sex discrimination, she can always point back to what she said here about having trouble finding a job in law due to pregnancy. It’s perfectly plausible given the times, and it’d be hard for Republicans to disprove it given that she doesn’t accuse any particular entity of discrimination like she did in the case of her teaching job. Her point is that the bias against women was industry-wide. That’s enough to substantiate a relatable “I’ve dealt with this problem myself” anecdote for voters.
But you know how Warren is with biographical details — why take an inch when you can try to take a mile?
Anyway, the media is irritated that she’s being challenged about this, partly because she’s their preferred candidate and partly because there’s a Larger Truth to it about how women of her generation were treated. They’ll do what they can next year to dismiss it on her behalf. It’s not like Trump is going to spend much time on it either. For him, it’s “Pocahontas” or bust in Warren biographical attacks.
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