WATCH: Elizabeth Warren’s 2011 Claim About Pregnancy Discrimination Appears to Undermine Current Explanation
Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is standing by her claim she lost a teaching job due to pregnancy discrimination, but a 2011 interview appears to undercut her explanation for giving a contradictory account in 2007.
During her current presidential campaign, Warren has made her claim of pregnancy discrimination a central part of her stump speech, most recently even attributing it as the reason she could not pursue her “dream job” of teaching special needs kids, which she now says she’d still be doing if not for that obstacle.
But Warren gave a different account in a 2007 interview, citing her lack of required education credits and decision to stay home and raise children as her reasons for leaving the career, with no mention of pregnancy discrimination. She even said she subsequently took some more education classes, and decided “I don’t think this is going to work out for me.”
She said she became “restless,” and when her old debate team friends suggested law school, she pursued that path.
As many have pointed out, including Mediaite, pregnancy discrimination remains a problem to this day, and was legal in 1971. But there were also women who decided to stay home and raise children, as Warren described in 2007. Why the differing accounts?
Some of Warren’s defenders have surmised that she may not have felt comfortable discussing the subject in 2007, but feels comfortable doing so now, a premise that Warren herself reinforced in a statement about the controversy, writing “After becoming a public figure I opened up more about different pieces in my life and this was one of them.”
But in a 2011 interview with Rutgers Law Professor Paul Tractenberg, Warren was comfortable enough to open up about pregnancy discrimination by law firms, and yet recounted her exit from teaching without mentioning it at all. In fact, she corroborated details of her 2007 account, like the reason for her decision to go into law.
“I was married at 19 to a boy I had dated since my freshman year in high school,” Warren said. “I had a baby, he was transferred to New Jersey, I was going to be a public school teacher and, a whole series of quick events, and I had been a high school debater, and the boys in high school debate back in Oklahoma had said ‘You should think about law school.'”
“And so I read up, found out there was a law school in Newark, drove in, looked around and thought ‘I could give it a try.'”
Later in that same interview, Warren told Tractenberg “I graduated from law school 9 months pregnant, and Amy’s getting a little bigger at that point, and 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. And with that law degree from Rutgers, I hung out a shingle.”
In neither interview did Warren describe teaching as a “dream job,” or express the slightest regret at leaving the career. And in her current retellings, she makes no mention of the emergency certificate she was teaching with, the required courses she had not completed, or returning to graduate school to earn those credits.
In her 2014 book, Warren said she “thought about graduate school for speech pathology,” but decided on law school:
My first choice was to go back to teaching, but I never even asked Jim. I knew he would say that a demanding full-time job was out of the question. So somewhere between diapers and breast-feeding, I hatched the idea of going to school. At first Jim resisted, but finally he agreed. School would be okay.
Suddenly the world opened up. It was kid-in-the-candy-store time. At first I thought about graduate school in speech pathology. I also got the applications for engineering school. And then I thought of law school. I knew next to nothing about being a lawyer, but on television lawyers were always fighting to defend good people who needed help.
Gone was the very specific mention of the encouragement from her debate team.
The 2011 interview seems to dispel the notion that Warren was uncomfortable discussing pregnancy discrimination, while the brief account she did offer of her departure from teaching is consistent with the story she told in 2007, and not the one she tells now.
Watch the full interview above, via Rutgers Newark.
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