What Dumb Wingnut Lie About Elizabeth Warren Shall We Debunk Today?
photo by Dominic Gwinn

With election season and impeachment both heating up, the (mostly) rightwing bullshit factory is swinging into gear and trying to find stuff that might tarnish Democratic candidates. At the moment, those without too many critical thinking skills are giddily announcing they've caught Elizabeth Warren in a HUGE LIE about having been fired from her first teaching job for being pregnant, because the school never wrote down "Fired for being a pregnant married lady" as the reason for her dismissal. It's bullshit, of course, and for the most part, respectable media outlets aren't buying into the wingnut (and a few unfortunate leftists') gaslighting. But as with the Obama birther conspiracy bullshit, just the existence of the gaslighting campaign makes a debunking necessary. Doing that debunking without reinforcing the bullshit is the trick -- and believers in (mostly) rightwing bullshit are remarkably resistant to mere facts. Which is, not for nothing, why it's taken 40 years to start doing anything about climate change. Worse, some supporters of other Democratic and/or Democrat-caucusing independent candidates are piling on, advancing the rightwing bullshit, because some people never learn.

Yes, it's all incredibly stupid, and relies on deliberately presenting misleading partial information and insisting minor differences in what Warren has said about the firing -- decades later -- constitute a "lie," even when there are no real inconsistencies in her statements. Let's unwind this fucktangle, shall we? We shall.

In a (mostly) good overview of the nontroversy, CBS News notes that Warren has frequently told of how her 1971 firing from her dream job as a special ed teacher in Riverdale, New Jersey, was what led to her entering law school. In a new interview for the story, Warren said,

All I know is I was 22 years old, I was 6 months pregnant, and the job that I had been promised for the next year was going to someone else. The principal said they were going to hire someone else for my job.

Warren has often said that she was "shown the door" once she was visibly pregnant, which wouldn't have been at all unusual. But wait! in a 2007 interview at UC-Berkeley, Warren said something different about why she left teaching!

I worked in a public school system with the children with disabilities. I did that for a year, and then that summer I didn't have the education courses, so I was on an "emergency certificate," it was called [...] I went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, "I don't think this is going to work out for me." I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years.

So clearly, since she didn't mention being let go for being pregnant, she must be lying now! Or she was lying then, maybe! Both things can't be true, can they? Is it possible that she could have been let go for being pregnant, hoped to get back to work by getting more credentials, but then decided nah?

(In all the nonsense back and forth on this, where people have been arguing based on very limited known facts, one thrown out frequently was that she clearly was fired not for being pregnant but rather for not having the proper credentials. BUT AU CONTRAIRE. Primary sources -- newspaper articles at the time, which was some serious small town newspaper stuff -- showed that she had been offered a second year contract despite the lack, which will be exploited in the next paragraph by the Washington Free Beacon. DUN DUN.)

The rightwing Washington Free Beaconclaimed it had conclusively disproven Warren's claim about being fired for her pregnancy, because a transcript of a school board meeting April 1971 showed the board unanimously voted to rehire Warren for the coming school year, but in June, the board "accepted with regret" Warren's resignation, thus proving her a big fat very pregnant liar.

Again, those school board minutes mean very little; Warren told CBS News that she certainly had been offered the job in April, when she was only four or five months along, but that once she was "visibly pregnant," her principal made it clear she was expected to resign.

"In April of that year, my contract was renewed to teach again for the next year," Warren said. She also said she had been hiding her pregnancy from the school.

"I was pregnant, but nobody knew it. And then a couple of months later when I was six months pregnant and it was pretty obvious, the principal called me in, wished me luck, and said he was going to hire someone else for the job," Warren said.

What's more, that was very much the norm at the time:

Two retired teachers who worked at Riverdale Elementary for over 30 years, including the year Warren was there, told CBS News that they don't remember anyone being explicitly fired due to pregnancy during their time at the school. [...]

"The rule was at five months you had to leave when you were pregnant. Now, if you didn't tell anybody you were pregnant, and they didn't know, you could fudge it and try to stay on a little bit longer," [Trudy] Randall said. "But they kind of wanted you out if you were pregnant."

Not surprisingly, there were no women on the Riverside School Board in 1971. But even as the CBS story gives Warren the chance to set the record straight, it indulges some pretty stupid framing, comme ça:

Local newspaper reports from 1971 also present reasons for her leaving the school alternative to what she describes on the trail. The Paterson News, a local paper, reported that summer that Warren was "leaving to raise a family." The next month, a story about the school board hiring a replacement said Warren had "resigned for personal reasons,"

Gosh, "leaving to raise a family" and "personal reasons" don't sound at all like polite fictions from the school system for "was shitcanned for being pregnant."

As several folks have noted, it wasn't until 1972 that New Jersey's Division of Civil Rights outlawed policies requiring pregnant teachers to resign:

Twitter is, not surprisingly, full of teachers recalling how common that was, plus amateurs like a New York Times education reporter who merely wrote a book on the always-embattled teaching profession.

But wait! Why didn't Warren talk about getting fired in that 2007 interview, huh? It's UNPOSSIBLE for both stories to be true, isn't it? Professional "Ladysplainer" Emily Crockett notes the 2007 interview isn't the least bit "contradictory," even if Warren didn't mention being fired for being pregnancy.

Warren told CBS News that she's now simply more comfortable talking about the bad old days now than she was before getting elected to the Senate: "After becoming a public figure I opened up more about different pieces in my life and this was one of them."

There really is such a thing as both/and, not either/or. And sometimes we even emphasize different parts of our experiences in different contexts.

Hell, I know a guy who spent 10 years and piled up huge student loans getting an advanced degree, but who ultimately said the hell with academe, even though he thought for years it would be a dream job. Heck, he didn't even apply for any professorships!

And that little graduate student was me. If you'd asked me in 2003 why I had made that decision, I probably would have had a far different answer than I would today.

Then again, I'm not running for president, so get ready for Pregnancyghazi to be with us forever, America.

[CBS News / Emily Crockett on Twitter / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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