Elizabeth Warren Had a Hard Time Naming Prominent Black People—On Two Occasions

Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren didn’t seem to be prepared to talk black folks during recent interviews with black folks.
Photo: Cheryl Senter (AP )

Just when we thought she was on the right track, the leading lady of the Democratic presidential frontrunners may need new people.

Elizabeth Ann Warren didn’t seem to be prepared to talk black folks during recent interviews with black folks.

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As noted by Tommy Christopher on Mediaite Saturday, the Massachusetts Senator was asked, TWICE, to name a few well-known black people and had a hard time answering very specific questions.

On Tuesday’s episode of Rashad Robinson’s Voting While Black podcast, Warren was asked: “Who are the black people, the black leaders, the folks who have contributed to your understanding of politics, of advocacy, of why you’re here sitting with me right now, and why you’re out in the world right now championing the causes you’re championing?”

“Oh that’s a great question,” she responded before talking passionately about the first thing that came to mind—what a black person, who is now dead, taught her.

“Elijah [Cummings] taught me a long time ago that you fight from the heart, and you fight from the heart for what you believe in and for the people you believe in… it’s the right fight to have…,” she told the Color of Change president.

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The recently deceased congressman was the lone black leader the 70-year-old Oklahoma City native could come up with.

At the end of the podcast—which is “based in black joy and building black power”—Robinson disclosed that the interview was conducted before Cummings passed away.

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Two days later, she took the stage at North Carolina’s A&T University for an interview with our favorite woke woman crush for a program called “Conversation with Angela Rye.”

The CNN commentator quizzed Miss Ann with a series of rapid-fire “icebreaker” questions.

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One was to name three black people she’d like to have in her cabinet.

“When you think about the makeup of your cabinet, what three African Americans do you feel like you have to have in your cabinet?” Rye asked.

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“Ooh, you know, there’s a little danger in this answer because some of those folks are running for president, and may not want to hear themselves mentioned as cabinet members because dang, there’s some good people, and some of them are in Congress... it’s about having people who are fighters,” Warren said.

“It’s about having people who are in the fight and want to be in the fight and are going to stay in the fight. For me it’s about building a cabinet that’s about people who share the same vision, and who don’t just share vision, you don’t just see the big idea, but who have a real commitment to get out there and fight for it, that’s what I want. I want fighters in my cabinet,” she said.

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“Three names?” Rye further probed.

“Oh, you’re making me cut off all the politicians,” Warren pivoted.

“But if I can talk about people who aren’t politicians, I’d talk about my former governor Deval Patrick, who is a pretty terrific guy,” Warren said.

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(Once a politician, always a politician.)

“I’d talk about some of the people I’ve met who are presidents of HBCUs especially those who are deeply engaged in education,” she added.

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“And I’m trying to think [because] I’m trying to stay outside the current Washington part, where’s the best place to go for cabinet members?” Warren waffled.

“It’s to have people who are in the fight. People like Melody Barnes, my friend of more than 20 years, who has been in this fight from the very beginning, who under President Obama … was domestic policy advisor. Someone like Melody, who may not be as well known to this crowd, but who is out there fighting every day for money for higher education, money for public schools, so that would be somebody I’d love to have in a cabinet.”

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If talking about prominent black people is her blind spot, her team may need to retool a few things.

Especially when she’s sitting down with black thought leaders—in black spaces.

Don’t let us find out that she’s not ready for primetime.

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About the author

Karu F. Daniels

Hailing from "the thorough borough" of Brooklyn, Mr. Daniels has written for The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Essence, VIBE, NBC News, The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News and Word Up!