Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown just can’t seem to let Elizabeth Warren’s disputed Native American ancestry go.
During the second, testy debate in their hotly contested Senate race on Monday night, the GOP senator went on defense after being questioned by NBC’s David Gregory.
Gregory pressed Brown to say whether there was any evidence to suggest Warren had benefited or was hired because she had previously claimed that she was Native American.
“The real issue, David, is what she’s telling the people," Brown replied, later adding that “the best way for her to do that is for her to release her personnel records.”
Warren, a progressive hero, once claimed on a Harvard job application that she was part Cherokee. She later clarified that she was 1/32 Native American, saying she had been told as much by her mother, and had taken that fact at face value.
Warren reiterated that claim during the debate, saying, “I’ve answered the questions about how I was born, what I learned growing up.”
Brown, who is trying to retain his seat in the left-leaning state, also tried to distance himself from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney—not long after Brown appeared reluctant to say he backed Romney, before his campaign clarified that he does.
When Gregory asked Brown if he supported Romney, he said “yes” on economic issues, quickly adding that they are “two different people.” He also insisted he would have to read each bill, if re-elected, to determine if he agreed with Romney on it.
At one point Brown lost his cool on Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, when he felt like he was being interrupted.
“Excuse me, I’m not a student in your classroom. Please let me respond,” he said to both boos and cheers.
Brown also seemed to run into a bit of trouble when Gregory asked him who his model Supreme Court justice is.The GOPer immediately named right-leaning Antonin Scalia, to both applause and boos.
He then added liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, swing Justice Anthony Kennedy and conservative Justice John Roberts.
When Gregory noted Sotomayor and Scalia were on opposite sides of the spectrum and asked him to "pick one," a testy Brown responded, "Listen, I don't need to pick one, we have plenty of justices up there and I'm proud of the ones we have."
Gregory later asked Brown if he'd vote for Mitch McConnell to be the Senate's top Republican again. Brown insisted McConnell "has a lot of work to do to earn my vote."
Outgoing Democratic Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that Brown's claim that he hasn't made up his mind about McConnell is "non-credible."
He also ripped Brown for claiming several times during the debate that he'd have an "open mind" on controversial issues.
"I think he is kind of crossing the line from independence to incoherence because he understands if he were to say what he plans to really vote it would be unattractive to voters," said Frank.
A new Boston Globe poll shows Warren leading Brown by five points. But 18% of voters are still undecided.