Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indirectly called Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) a “favorite of the Russians” on Thursday, Oct. 17, where she floated a conspiracy theory that the Russians are “grooming” a Democratic candidate to act in their interests.
This remark is speculated to be an attack on Gabbard, as none of the other four women running for president besides Gabbard—Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and author Marianne Williamson—have been accused of being close with Russia, CNN reports.
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton speculated on a podcast with former Obama adviser David Plouffe.
The former secretary of state was unable to provide evidence about how Russia is “grooming” Gabbard, but cited allegations that Russian news and propaganda websites frequently focus their reports on Gabbard’s campaign. These allegations were rejected by Gabbard.
Gabbard fired back at Clinton’s allegations on Twitter Friday afternoon.
“You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain,” Gabbard said, challenging Clinton to join the race. “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly.”
Van Jones, a CNN Democratic commentator, said that Clinton was “playing a very dangerous game” with her remarks.
“If you’re concerned about disinformation … that is what just happened, just throw out some information, disinformation, smear somebody,” Jones said of Clinton’s baseless attacks on Gabbard.
“She’s a former nominee of our party, and she just came out against a sitting U.S. congresswoman, a decorated war veteran, and somebody who’s running for the nomination of our party with just a complete smear and no facts,” Jones added.
Former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to former President George W. Bush said that Clinton needs to either “put up or shut up” with her baseless claims that Gabbard is tied with the Russians.
“And she better either prove them, give the evidence to the FBI if she believes it … give them to the American people so we can judge whether this is just some rant and rave or whether she has actually got something to back it up,” Rove said.
Two 2020 Democratic candidates Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson were in support of Gabbard after Clinton blasted the Hawaiian representative.
“Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this,” Yang wrote in a tweet. “She literally just got back from serving our country abroad.”
“The Democratic establishment has got to stop smearing women it finds inconvenient,” Williamson tweeted, adding, “the character assassination of women who don’t toe the party line will backfire.”
“You deserve respect and you have mine,” Williamson told Gabbard.
Gabbard’s campaign has seized the fundraising opportunity and taunted Clinton to “face her directly” in the 2020 Democratic primary.
“Hillary Clinton accused Tulsi Gabbard—a combat veteran, soldier, and major in the Army National Guard—of being ‘groomed’ to be a ‘Russian asset,’” a portion of the Saturday fundraising email send by Gabbard’s campaign read.
Gabbard added saying, “I challenge her to come out from behind her proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media, and face me directly.”