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Tonight’s Democratic presidential debate featured some intense back-and-forth about President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in Syria, clearing the way for a Turkish invasion and leading to international condemnation of both Turkey and the U.S.
Moderator Anderson Cooper gave Iraq War veteran and anti-interventionist Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) a chance to shine.
“What would you have done differently, how would you have pulled out troops without the bloodshed we’re seeing now?” Cooper asked.
Gabbard began strong before, for some reason, bringing up accusations that she is a Russian asset.
“The slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war,” she said. “…Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands.”
She went on to accuse politicians from both parties and the mainstream media of culpability for “championing and cheerleading this regime-change war.”
Then, Gabbard used her remaining time to talk about reports that she’s a Russian asset.
“The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime-change war,” she said, adding that the Times put out an article calling her a Russian asset, and claiming that a CNN commentator said the same that very morning.
“Completely despicable,” Gabbard said of such allegations.
Gabbard’s campaign has been plagued by accusations that she is either aligned with or supported by the Russians. It has been widely and repeatedly reported that Russia supports her candidacy. It is also undeniable that her more isolationist platform aligns more closely with Russia’s preference for American foreign policy than that of any other candidate.
Even as she attempts to distance herself, Gabbard has been admittedly popular with both the Kremlin and people on the far- and alt-right. She was endorsed by David Duke. The Times article inspired a pearl-clutching defense of Gabbard by none other than deeply conservative Washington Examiner.
Accordingly, most people weren’t convinced by Gabbard’s disgust over the assertion that she’s working for Moscow. They also couldn’t quite figure out why she’d bring up one of the biggest criticisms of her candidacy.
95% of #DemDebate viewers are now Googling “Tulsi Gabbard Russian asset” because she just brought it up. Twice. Without being asked about it.— Emma Vigeland (@EmmaVigeland) October 16, 2019
She’s not a Russian asset, by God, but this is the equivalent of “I am not a crook.” Now everyone is THINKING about you being a crook!
OMG ... did I just hear Tulsi say that she's a ''Russian asset and Assad defender?" Oh, no, sorry, I see now she was just saying that everyone else thinks she's a Russian asset and Assad defender.🤣🤣🤣#DemocraticDebate— Jason Lincoln Jeffers (@shamanartist) October 16, 2019
Tulsi Gabbard using her time on stage to introduce voters to criticisms of Tulsi Gabbard's foreign policy— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) October 16, 2019
Actual propaganda that Tulsi is parroting, in between denying she’s not a Russian asset. https://t.co/gjZPXGT99S— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) October 16, 2019
Tulsi’s “I am not a Russian asset” speech gave very Christine O’Donnell “I am not a witch” energy. #DemDebate— Emerson Collins (@ActuallyEmerson) October 16, 2019
This is the CNN talking head she’s referencing, who claims that “there is no question [Tulsi Gabbard] is a puppet for the Russian government.” pic.twitter.com/5IQEhr0ELB— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) October 16, 2019
It is a fact that the Russian talking point for years has been that the United States arms al-Qaeda in Syria. Tulsi Gabbard just said it on national television.— Scott Stedman (@ScottMStedman) October 16, 2019
*when Tulsi Gabbard mentions people are calling her a Russian asset then proceeds to do absolutely nothing but reinforce the fact that she’s a fuckin Russian asset* #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/osbovF6JIG— Cyrus McQueen (@CyrusMMcQueen) October 16, 2019
Tulsi Gabbard: "I am not a Russian asset. That's despicable, how dare you."— Shutter Kane (@thelastholdout) October 16, 2019
Also Tulsi Gabbard: *Proceeds to speak exactly like a Russian asset would*#DemocraticDebate
Note for the Gabbard campaign: Repeating a rumor only spreads it further.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.