Election 2020

Catfight: Tulsi Gabbard Accuses Hillary of Defamation, Demands Public Retraction

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

It appears that the catfight between Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton is far from over. The Gabbard campaign’s legal counsel has sent a letter to Hillary Clinton, accusing her of defamation for saying Gabbard is a Russian asset, which Hillary knew not to be true.

“In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia,” the letter said. “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.”

The letter is part of Gabbard’s continuing pushback after Clinton appeared on the podcast Campaign HQ with David Plouffe on Oct. 17. During the conversation, Clinton said, “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.”

The following day, a CNN reporter asked a Clinton spokesperson if Clinton was talking about Gabbard, to which the spokesperson said, “If the nesting doll fits,” implying that the statement was indeed about Gabbard.

While it’s easy to give Tulsi credit for taking a hard line against Hillary, this letter seems like a PR stunt to me. As a public figure, Tulsi should expect attacks and accusations, and threatening to sue over being called a bad word doesn’t evoke a sense of toughness one needs to run for president. Prior to her conflict with Hillary, her campaign was seen as floundering and she seemed unlikely to qualify for the November 20 debate. However, since Hillary’s absurd attack, Tulsi’s campaign got a small jolt. She’s still polling in single digits, but she managed to qualify for the debate. There were significantly higher expectations for Beto O’Rourke in this campaign, yet Tulsi still stands.

Hillary’s attack gave Tulsi the kind of publicity you can’t buy, and unless others start dropping out, it’ll be hard for her to continue her campaign with her polling numbers. Keeping the Tulsi vs. Hillary story alive might seems like Tulsi’s best move in the short term, but it’s not a viable long-term strategy, and thus, comes across as extremely desperate. Tulsi’s campaign is, without a doubt, struggling, and unless she’s willing to go after the frontrunners instead of Hillary Clinton, her campaign won’t last much longer after the November debate.


Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis