Elizabeth Warren is making her first campaign tour around Iowa, a crucial state for the probable 2020 competitor, but was quickly forced to address an issue that's likely to hurt her in the race for the White House.
During a Saturday morning event in Sioux City, audience members were given the chance to ask the Massachusetts senator questions. The first? A query about her decision to take a DNA test and release the results on her Native American ancestry.
"Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully?" an audience member asked the Democrat.
Warren released results from the DNA test in October, which showed "strong evidence" of Native American ancestry, partially in response to criticism from Republicans, including President Donald Trump who nicknamed her "Pocahontas." Conservatives have attacked Warren for claiming Cherokee heritage in order to gain favor for jobs that helped boost her career, something her former employers have said did not play a role in the hiring process.
The test results were widely mocked because they only showed that her Native American ancestry went back six to 10 generations. The test, which showed she was at least 1/1024th Native American, was also denounced by the Cherokee nation that said using "a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong."
After the question from the audience member, Warren on Saturday told Iowan voters that the test wasn't meant to show any claim to a tribe and said she understood and respected the difference between ancestry and tribal citizenship. She said after the attacks she merely just wanted to "put it all out there."
"I'm glad you asked that question. I genuinely am and I'm glad for us to have a chance to talk about it," Warren started out in her response. "I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry."
Warren went on explaining that when she ran for public office for the first time in 2012, Republicans "honed in on this part of my history" and made a lot of "racial slurs."
"So my decision was, I'm just going to put it all out there," Warren said of her decision to release the results of the DNA test.
"I can't stop Donald Trump from what he's going to do. I can't stop him from hurling racial insults," Warren said. "But what I can do is I can be in this fight for all of our families."
Warren started her visit to Iowa on Friday with an event in Council Bluffs. Her microphone cut out about 10 minutes into her speech but she kept speaking, unfazed, and yelled across the crowded room.
Warren's trip — her first to Iowa since 2014 — caps a week in which she took significant steps to formalize her 2020 efforts by launching a presidential exploratory committee and hiring a team of veteran Iowa staffers. It serves as a first glimpse of what she may look like as a 2020 candidate.
Her route across the state includes stops in deep blue Polk County, as well as events in western and rural Iowa where Republicans substantially outnumber Democrats.
Contributing: Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Why did you undergo the DNA test?': Elizabeth Warren asked about ancestry in first question at Iowa event