Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday over an interview in which Clinton appeared to call Gabbard “the favorite of the Russians.”
Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman, says in her lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, that Clinton’s comments in a podcast last year in which she suggested that Gabbard was being groomed by Russia to be a third-party candidate were based on either her own imagination or “extremely dubious conspiracy theories” that any reasonable person would know to be “inherently and objectively unreliable.”
During the Oct. 15 Democratic presidential debate, Gabbard criticized a TV commentator she said had called her “an asset of Russia.”
Without naming Gabbard, Clinton appeared to agree with the characterization during an appearance on the “Campaign HQ With David Plouffe” podcast days later. Plouffe was campaign manager for President Obama in 2008 and served as a senior advisor to Obama.
“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton said, referring to a person she had earlier identified as a woman “who’s currently in the Democratic primary. ... They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”
The lawsuit charges that Clinton “reserves a special hatred and animosity for Tulsi” because Gabbard endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders over Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary campaign and never endorsed Clinton in the general election.
Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “That’s ridiculous.”
Gabbard, whose support among Democratic primary voters has averaged about 1% in polls, has said she will not run for president as a third-party candidate. She has also said she will not seek reelection to Congress.