By Lindsay Kimble / People
June 15, 2015

The parents of the prominent NAACP leader who’s under fire after allegedly lying about her race, an issue first brought to light by them, spoke out about their embattled daughter on the Today show Monday morning.

Rachel Dolezal, 37, who serves as the NAACP Spokane Washington Brach President, has been accused of pretending to be black for several years. Her parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, provided photo evidence that Rachel was their birth daughter to a local newspaper last week. Rachel initially dismissed the controversy as the result of litigation among the family over allegations of past abuse.

“Those are all false claims, I think Rachel is trying to damage her biological family,” Ruthanne told Savannah Guthrie via satellite on Monday.

Larry and Ruthanne, who said Rachel has “distanced herself from us,” told Guthrie that although their daughter gradually began identifying herself as a black woman in 2007, they had never before been approached by the media.

“We had never been asked to be involved, we had never been questioned before,” he said. “Just short of a week ago we were contacted by the Spokesman-Review and I guess it was part of some investigative reporting that was being done.”

The Dolezals said they decided to reveal Rachel’s true identity because they raised their children to “tell the truth,” and wanted to emulate that in their own behavior.

Larry and Ruthanne also said that Rachel’s upbringing was devoid of abuse, despite her allegations.

“She knows that we were not abusive parents, people who know us also know that, and before Rachel tried to change her identity she was always very proud of us as her parents,” Ruthanne said.

Despite the media firestorm, the Dolezals still hold out hope for an eventual reconciliation.

“We’re always ready as parents to forgive and move on,” Larry said.

Until then, Ruthanne hopes Rachel will “get the help that she needs to deal with her identity issues.”

Rachel is expected to address the ongoing controversy via a public statement to be released Monday night.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

Read next: The Difficult Question of Why People Pretend to Be Another Race

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