Despite her failed efforts to block two controversial nominees to President Donald Trump’s cabinet, it’s been a very good week for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).
The liberal firebrand was a key voice in the Democratic Party’s fight to block Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, and the president’s attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). And although her party’s efforts failed and the Senate confirmed both nominees, Senate Republicans gave Warren a remarkable political gift in the process.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to invoke a rarely-used Senate rule to shut Warren out of the debate over Sessions’ nomination was a blessing in disguise for the Massachusetts senator. Warren, McConnell said, had violated a rule that prevented senators from impugning one another when she read a letter criticizing Sessions’ civil rights record written by Coretta Scott King — Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.
Here’s the testy exchange between McConnell and Warren, who was barred from participating in the rest of the debate:
Warren quickly struck political gold from the controversy. After being barred from speaking on the Senate floor, she took to Facebook live to read King’s letter — where she has over 11 million views and counting. McConnell’s own words — “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” — have become a rallying cry for an already amped up Democratic base. The hashtags #ShePersisted and #LetLizSpeak were trending Tuesday night, and Warren has been a regular part of the news cycle ever since.
One of Warren’s most passionate responses to the situation came on a platform she knows very well: in an appearance on “The Daily Show,” Warren called out Senate Republicans for not letting her read King’s letter. Warren also said that the Senate’s decision to silence her has only made more Americans read the letter and talk about some of the most important issues facing the country.
“What it’s done is it’s helped us have a better democratic conversation,” Warren said on the show. “What we’ve got to do is count on people all around this country to make their voices heard.”
Warren’s surprise appearance on the popular satirical news show was met with raucous applause from the show’s audience — an audience that has seen Warren grow from a little known Harvard professor to a star in the Democratic Party.
In her 2014 book “A Fighting Chance,” Warren discussed her first ever appearance on “The Daily Show” in 2009, when she struggled to explain oversight of the Wall Street bailout to then-host Jon Stewart.
“I was miserable. I had stage fright — gut-wrenching, stomach-turning, bile-filled stage fright,” Warren wrote. “And I was stuck in a gloomy little bathroom, about to go on ‘The Daily Show.’”
As she recounted in her book, things got off to a rocky start — so much so that she thought she would lose her job as the Chair of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel.
“The first couple of minutes were terrible, and then it got worse,” she wrote.
After a commercial break, however, Stewart gave Warren another shot. And as she wrote in a goodbye Facebook post to Stewart in 2015, it changed her life:
Since her first appearance, “The Daily Show” has become an important part of Warren’s political rise. She’s been on the show seven times (according to IMDb.com), discussing everything from her 2012 Senate race to overhauling the political system and the student loan crisis.
Warren’s appearances on the show have helped make her a popular figure among progressives. And as Warren continues to be one of Trump’s fiercest critics in the Senate and speculation about a possible 2020 presidential run heats up, it’ll be interesting to see if she continues to use “The Daily Show” as a platform — like she did Wednesday night.
Here’s Warren’s full exchange with host Trevor Noah from earlier this week: