MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Senator Elizabeth Warren has released the results of a DNA test that says there is, quote, "strong evidence" she has Native American ancestry dating back six to 10 generations. This is an attempt to quiet a controversy that has dogged Warren for years, and it comes as the Massachusetts Democrat mulls a run for president in 2020. NPR's Asma Khalid is on the story, and she is in the studio now. Hey, there.
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hey.
KELLY: Start with - exactly what did Elizabeth Warren release today?
KHALID: Sure. She released the results of a DNA analysis conducted by this Stanford University researcher. His name is Carlos Bustamante. And he found that a vast majority of Warren's lineage is of European ancestry. But he also wrote that her results strongly support the existence of a Native American ancestor.
You know, in addition to this DNA analysis, Warren also released a campaign-style video that had clips of President Trump mocking her claims of Native American ancestry and some vignettes from her family history. She has this one scene in particular where she calls Bustamante, the DNA researcher, and puts him on the line.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CARLOS BUSTAMANTE: We did find five segments of Native American ancestry with very high confidence where we believe the error rate is less than one in a thousand.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Now, the president likes to call my mom a liar. What do the facts say?
BUSTAMANTE: The facts suggest that you absolutely have a Native American ancestor in your pedigree.
KHALID: So, you know, you can hear that she's also again pressing this point that this is part of her family's history. It's a history that she says has been passed down for generations.
KELLY: You can also hear at least one member of the intended audience of that video is the president himself.
KELLY: Has he responded to all this?
KHALID: He has. And, you know, Warren really made it (laughter) kind of a point that he had to respond to. She tweeted at him about a promise that he made, a sort of dare. At a rally this summer, he suggested that if he were to debate her in 2020, he would give her one of these take-home DNA kits. And then he said this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian.
TRUMP: And let's see what she does, right?
KHALID: So, Mary Louise, this morning, Warren asked that he pay up and he donate...
KELLY: She wants the million dollars.
KHALID: She wants this money to go, she says, to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. That's the charity of her choice. You know, Trump was asked by reporters about this challenge. He denied making that promise even though, as you all heard...
KELLY: We just heard it.
KHALID: ...We just ran the tape.
KELLY: Right, OK.
KHALID: And so Warren went after him again on Twitter saying, you know - asking him if he had memory problems and if they should all call for a doctor. And really, you know, she's kind of been poking him all day on Twitter.
KELLY: Am I cynical to ask about the timing of this? Does it have anything to do with the aspirations we mentioned that she's eyeing a run for president herself in 2020?
KHALID: I think that's a really realistic odds at this point. I mean, you know, this is isn't a campaign ad for the midterms. Warren is expected to easily win a second term as a senator this November. This is really about what's next, right? And she has talked about potentially taking a hard look at what's next after the midterms.
And she really does want to kind of quiet these questions. They have been trailing her ever since she first ran for the Senate in Massachusetts in 2012. At that time, her Republican opponent accused her of being dishonest about her past. And, you know, President Trump of course had - has taken to calling her Pocahontas. So this is really an attempt to try to kind of quiet all of this because the 2020 race is going to kick off pretty much as soon as the midterms are over.
KELLY: And just very briefly, has it quieted all of this? Has it silenced her critics?
KHALID: No, not at all. I mean, I just can tell you real quick the Republican National Committee said that the test revealed only a minuscule percentage of Native American ancestry. That still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
KELLY: All right, that is NPR's political correspondent Asma Khalid. Thanks very much.
KHALID: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.