Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) team is signaling impending legal action, demanding a retraction from Hillary Clinton regarding the statements she made during an October 17 appearance on Campaign HQ With David Plouffe, in which she implied that Gabbard is a “favorite of the Russians” as well as a “Russian asset.”
A letter released on Monday, written on behalf Gabbard, demands the twice-failed presidential candidate retract the “defamatory” statements made about Gabbard.
During the October 17 interview, Clinton stated:
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. She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And, that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset. I mean, totally.
Clinton did not explicitly mention Gabbard by name, but her spokesman Nick Merill confirmed that Clinton had the Hawaiian lawmaker in mind, telling NBC News, “If the nesting doll fits.”
“The statement is false,” the letter released by Gabbard’s campaign states:
Congresswoman Gabbard is not being groomed by Russia to be a third-party candidate. Nor is she a Russian asset. Rather, she is a patriotic loyal American, a sitting four-term United States Congresswoman and a Major in the United States Army National Guard.
As such, she is a loyal American who has taken an oath declaring her allegiance to the United States of America both as a soldier and as a member of Congress. She has been serving for over 16 years in the Army National Guard, having voluntarily deployed twice to war zones in the Middle East.
The letter also addresses Merrill’s claims that the media “incorrectly quoted” Clinton. He suggested that Clinton meant the Republicans – not Russians – were “grooming” Gabbard as a third-party candidate.
“But this makes no sense in light of what you actually said. After you made the statement linking Congresswoman Gabbard to the Russians, you (through your spokesman) doubled down on it with the Russian nesting dolls remark,” the letter states.
“This Republicans-not-Russians spin developed only after you realized the defamatory nature of your statement, and therefore your legal liability, as well as the full extent of the public backlash against your statement,” it continues, describing the “Republicans-not-Russians spin” as “rubbish.”
The letter continues:
In any event, this strained interpretation bears no legal weight. Defamation claims are not determined by the speaker’s post-hoc rationalizations. They are determined by how the statement was “read and understood by the public . . . .” Here, the public universally understood your statement exactly as you intended to be understood, and exactly as you made it: that Tulsi Gabbard—a sitting Congresswoman, U.S. Army Major, and candidate for President of the United States—is a Russian asset. This is how your statement was understood by those in political circles, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang.
In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia. Besides your statement, no law enforcement or intelligence agencies have claimed, much less presented any evidence, that Congresswoman Gabbard is a Russian asset. This fabricated story is so facially improbable that it is actionable as defamation.
Gabbard’s team is demanding Clinton “immediately hold a press conference to verbally retract—in full—your comments” and provide a “full and fair retraction,” ordering Clinton to post on her Twitter account and distribute to major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
The retraction is as follows:
On October 17, 2019, I made certain statements about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Among other things, I accused her of being a Russian asset and that Russia was grooming her to be a third-party presidential candidate.
I was wrong. I never should have made these remarks, and I apologize. I did not have any basis for making the statements. I acknowledge my grave mistake and error in judgment in this matter.
I support and admire the work that Congresswoman Gabbard has done and will continue to do in serving our country.
Gabbard said during an appearance on Breitbart News Daily last week that her clash with Clinton is more than a run-of-the-mill political spat.
“This thing that has rolled out over the last few weeks, I think it’s important to point out that this is not just, ‘Well, she doesn’t like me or I don’t like her.’ There’s a deeper issue and contrast here, and that issue really is, I think there are two main things here,” Gabbard said.
“Number one, what we’ve seen play out is this message and this warning that’s come from Hillary Clinton as well as her proxies and the foreign policy establishment elite in Washington that says if you stand up against them, if you dissent, if you, as I am calling for an end to our country’s long-held foreign policy of being the world’s police, toppling dictators in countries we don’t like, if you do that, then your character will be smeared just as they are trying to smear my character under my campaign,” she continued.
“If you do this, you, too, will be smeared,” she added.