Elizabeth Warren has a moving story about being fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant, a story that perfectly complements her political narrative that she is the tribune and champion of those who have been treated unfairly by the powerful. Joe Biden has a moving — and horrifying — story about his wife and daughter being killed by a drunk driver, a story that similarly could not have been designed more perfectly to bolster his political image as a man who can be counted on to soldier on in the face of adversity.
Of course, neither story is true.
Are we still caring about that sort of thing?
Elizabeth Warren has long pretended to be a person of color — a “woman of color,” the Harvard law faculty called her. (That color is Pantone 11-0602.) What Senator Warren has in common with Jussie Smollett turns out to have nothing to do with skin tone. Smollett, you’ll recall, regaled the nation with the story of a couple of violent, Trump-loving, MAGA-hat-wearing white supremacists who just happened to be cruising a gay neighborhood in Chicago on the coldest night of the year, who also just happened to be fans of Empire, who also just happened to have some rope at hand. Who happened, as it turns out, to be a couple of Nigerian brothers and colleagues of Smollett’s.
Fiction, yes. Deployed, as we are always told when these lies are exposed as lies, in the service of a larger truth, a truth of which such habitual and irredeemable liars as Warren, Biden, Smollett — and Lena Dunham, and the so-called journalists of Rolling Stone, and the perpetrators of a thousand phony campus hate-crime hoaxes — are the appointed apostles.
“Does anybody seriously believe it was not as everyday as sunrise that employers made pregnant women leave their jobs 50 years ago?” CNBC’s John Harwood demanded in defense of Warren. Perhaps it has not occurred to Harwood, who purports to be a journalist of a kind, that the relevant question is not whether this sort of thing happened in the past to a great many women but whether this particular thing actually happened to this woman, which does not seem to be the case: The minutes of the local school-board meeting quite clearly document that Warren was offered a contract for further employment, which she declined. She was forthright in her account of the episode at earlier points in her life. She seems to have suddenly remembered the discrimination sometime between when she began advertising herself to the Ivy League as a Cherokee and the day when the Cherokee finally shamed her into knocking it off.
Similarly, people are killed by drunk drivers every day in this country. Joe Biden’s wife and daughter were not among them, in spite of his libelous claims that they lost their lives in an accident involving an irresponsible truck driver who, as Biden put it, “drank his lunch.” The man who oversaw that investigation, Delaware Superior Court judge Jerome O. Herlihy, repeatedly has confirmed that there is no evidence alcohol was involved. The survivors of the driver, who has since passed away, have publicly asked Biden to stop telling this lie and besmirching the memory of their father. Investigators at the time determined that the accident was not even the other driver’s fault — Mrs. Biden seems to have driven accidentally into the path of the truck.
But what’s a lie about some nobody in Delaware in the service of the “greater truth,” which is somehow allied to the political ambitions of Joe Biden?
After reporting here in National Review, actress and political gadfly Lena Dunham was forced to retract claims that she had been raped at Oberlin College by a College Republican named Barry. As it turns out, there was a prominent College Republican named Barry (it is not a very common name) attending Oberlin during Dunham’s time there, but the two by all accounts — including Dunham’s own account, now — never had anything to do with one another. Dunham’s publisher was obliged to amend her book and to pay the man a small settlement.
Of course it was a College Republican. Of course the white supremacist late-night gay-neighborhood frequenting eagle-eyed Empire fans who spotted Jussie Smollett on that frosty late-night sandwich run while in possession of a length of rope and the knowledge of how to tie a noose were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. Of course that fictitious rape at the University of Virginia did not falsely implicate the chess team or the Sierra Club — and neither did the one at Duke.
A few weeks ago, the headlines were full of angst and alarum over the fact that a young black girl attending a school at which Karen Pence teaches suffered a racial assault at the hands of three smug white boys who cut her hair. Of course Karen Pence’s name appeared in the headlines: “SIXTH GRADERS HOLD DOWN CLASSMATE, CUT HER DREADLOCKS AT PRIVATE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL WHERE KAREN PENCE TEACHES,” in Newsweek’s all-caps account. Newsweek put Pence’s name in the lead, too — in fact, it made sure to put her front and center even before it described what was alleged to have happened. The smear was transparent, obvious even by the low standards of Newsweek.
Of course it was a lie. Here’s Newsweek now: “Amari Allen, who accused her classmates of hurling verbal abuse at her and forcibly cutting her hair has told reporters that she fabricated the event. The Allen family has formally apologized to both the school and the falsely accused boys.” Newsweek has not apologized to Karen Pence, who had no connection at all to the fictitious events save that they were purported to have happened at her place of employment. But the Democrats have invested a great deal in the storyline that Mike Pence must be some kind of crypto-racist, and it would follow that this tendency infests everyone and everything around him.
Warren’s fictions, and Biden’s, and Smollett’s, and Newsweek’s smear of Karen Pence, all have in common that they are lies that have been put into the service of the campaign against Donald Trump in 2020. (I assume, for the moment, that there will be such a campaign.) There is a supreme irony in that: Trump himself is not what one would call excessively scrupulous with the facts, but to resort to lies and inventions in the race against him is a confession of sorts.