Prof. Laurence Tribe Apologizes After Pitching Elizabeth Warren By Dismissing Picking a Black VP as ‘Cosmetics’


Professor Laurence Tribe apologized for comments in which he advocated for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s selection as Joe Biden’s running mate by referring to a potential black nominee as “cosmetics.”

Prof. Tribe was among about a hundred progressive figures — overwhelmingly white — who signed a letter to the Biden campaign urging him to select Warren. The letter itself addressed the strong indications that Biden will pick a black woman as running mate by asserting that Warren “could best unite the party. Anyone can speculate about who could most help your ticket politically in swing mid-western states or with people of color, both areas where you’re already strong.”

The letter also stated that Warren is “most prepared to be President if the occasion arises and deeply expert on the overlapping emergencies now plaguing America – Covid-19, Economic Insecurity, Racial Injustice and Climate Change.”

But in a Washington Post report on the letter, Professor Tribe went a bit further.

Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, where Warren once taught, said that there would be some “symbolic ways in which some people would be disappointed” if Biden does not choose an African American woman, and that disappointment should count. But Warren’s record, he said, makes her the strongest choice.

“I think African Americans above all would be the first to say they are more interested in results than cosmetics,” said Tribe, who signed the letter.

That remark sparked backlash online, which prompted Professor Tribe to issue an apology on Twitter.

“In urging @SenWarren as the strongest VP choice, I didn’t mean to express any doubt at all that several women of color currently on what’s said to be the Biden short list would be excellent choices as well,” Tribe wrote as part of a thread apologizing for the remark.

He explained that “when asked by the Post why Biden’s choice of a white woman wouldn’t automatically offend African Americans, I replied that I thought they ‘above all would be the first to say they are more interested in results than in cosmetics.'”

Tribe concluded his apology by saying “I’ve never doubted that racial identity is a significant variable in American governance. It should count heavily in favor of previously excluded groups as part of a person’s full record of background, skills, and values. I’m FOR Warren, not ANTI-excellent others.”

In the most recent polling on the question, Sen. Warren was the top individual choice as Biden’s running mate at 30 percent, but Senator Kamala Harris was the top choice among black voters, and black women candidates in the poll received a combined 52 percent support from all respondents.

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