Way, way back in the old days before October 2018, it was racist to make fun of Elizabeth Warren for claiming to be Native American. We were supposed to assume that it was her true heritage because she said so, and therefore any jokes about her were racist. (In addition to being sexist, of course, because she’s a woman.) Then Warren took a DNA test that conclusively proved she’s not Native American, although for some reason she and her enablers in the press initially thought it was a vindication of her claims that she’s Native American. Now that she’s been forced to admit she’s not Native American, you still can’t make jokes about her because it’s, um… racist?
Enter: Actor and possible immortal Rob Lowe. The other day he made this joke:
See what he did there? Commander in “Chief”? Because there are Indian chiefs, and Warren’s not actually an Indian even though she claimed to be one for decades. She even put it in writing.
Lowe’s quip is perhaps not the most clever or original joke anybody has ever told, but it’s just a joke. He didn’t hurt anybody. He certainly isn’t a racist. Is joking about Rachel Dolezal’s false claim of African-American heritage racist? No, it isn’t. Neither is this.
Elizabeth Warren has made a complete fool of herself, and it’s funny. Calling her “Chief” or “Fauxcahontas” or “Lieawatha” isn’t an insult to Native Americans, because she’s not Native American.
But Warren is running for president as a Democrat, so her fellow Democrats feel duty-bound to protect her. Most of Lowe’s Hollywood colleagues are, of course, Democrats. And if there’s one thing Democrats love to do, it’s flinging accusations of racism at anybody who crosses them.
Lowe got some pushback, and this was his response:
I deleted my Elizabeth Warren tweet. It was a joke and some peeps got upset, and that’s never my intention. On the GOOD side: I just got to use the Oxford comma!
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 10, 2019
Observation: many polarizing politicians actually LIKE each other, privately help each other, then publicly stir the pot, playing for votes. That’s fine. Only thing wrong with it is when we buy it whole cloth, breeding intolerance, anger and total inability to laugh at ANYTHING.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 10, 2019
But that’s not good enough. Watch ’em circle the wagons for their favorite fake Indian!
— Valerie Bertinelli (@Wolfiesmom) February 10, 2019
Tonight, the role of Scott Baio will be played by Rob Lowe. https://t.co/Tpv9RVwyRh
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) February 10, 2019
Amplifying the hateful message of an openly racist President isn’t funny. The house is fine. Your material sucks. https://t.co/uszHS67EgE
— Bradley Whitford (@WhitfordBradley) February 10, 2019
Yikes. Trouble in the West Wing?
Speaking of the “openly racist President,” this joke is considered off-limits as well:
Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President. Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2019
A lot of people are angry that Trump is apparently making a reference to the Trail of Tears. I dunno. If you want to get angry about Trump tweets in 2019, go ahead. It’s in bad taste, yes. He should stop tweeting altogether, I agree. But he’s not going to, and nobody can make him. I happen to think that Elizabeth Warren lying about her heritage for 30 years, and taking away career opportunities from authentic Native Americans, is worse than tweeting distasteful jokes. But sure, feel free to get outraged about whatever you want.
Nobody made Elizabeth Warren lie about her heritage. Nobody’s making her run for president, after lying about her heritage. She made these choices herself, and one of the consequences is that people are going to mock her for lying and screwing up.