On Friday night, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) told CNN’s Van Jones that she plans to run for president and that a formal announcement is forthcoming. “There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” the 37-year-old Iraq War veteran said. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
Though Gabbard has fashioned herself as an anti-Trump progressive, this past weekend was filled with revelations that could set her back in a crowded 2020 race that won’t afford candidates much margin for error. The latest came Sunday night when CNN reported that in the early 2000s Gabbard touted working for her father’s anti-gay organization, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage. The group supported legislation against same-sex marriage and promoted conversion therapy. Gabbard cited how she worked for the ATM — which described homosexuality as “unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted in society” — as she was running for a seat in the Hawaii state legislature. She was 21 at the time.
“First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,” she wrote in a statement to CNN responding to the story. “I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey. Over the past six years in Congress, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to help work toward passing legislation that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues, such as the Equality Act, the repeal of DOMA, Restore Honor to Service members Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Equality for All Resolution. Much work remains to ensure equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and if elected President, I will continue to fight for equal rights for all.”
Though many Democrats have evolved regarding LGBTQ rights, the aggressive nature of Gabbard’s past opposition is shocking. In 2000, she lashed out at gay rights activists who objected to Gabbard’s mother’s bid to join the school board, saying that the activists feared her mother would “not allow them to force their values down the throats of the children in our schools.” In 2004, while serving in the state legislature, she led the fight against a bill that would have legalized civil union for same-sex couples. “To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” she said. “As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.” Regarding a resolution that would have addressed anti-gay bullying, Gabbard delivered what the New Yorker described as a “long, fierce speech” railing against the prospect of children being taught that homosexuality is “normal and natural.”
It’s been said but bears repeating: Many Dems evolved from 15 years ago, but one this young, this extreme was an oddity. Gabbard was zealous & ideological in a way other Dems simply were not. Hard to believe that shifts. https://t.co/ptbMjBvET5 pic.twitter.com/MSs4YCTCLR
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) January 13, 2019
Since joining Congress in 2013, Gabbard has maintained that she no longer holds these views and has supported pro-LGBTQ legislation, but her anti-gay past is only the first item on a laundry list of reasons her campaign may be doomed. Although ardently anti-interventionist, she has described herself as a hawk when it comes to terrorism. She’s also been praised by former KKK grand wizard David Duke, white supremacist Richard Spencer and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. She’s rejected these endorsements, but as Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept points out, it’s more than a little troubling that some of the vilest people in America are supporting her.
In 2015 alone, Gabbard appeared on Fox News to criticize Obama for refusal to say “Islamic” when describing terrorists, voted to prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States and praised Putin for bombing Syria. “Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 and must be defeated,” she tweeted that October. “Obama won’t bomb them in Syria. Putin did.” She added that it’s “bad enough US has not been bombing al-Qaeda/al-Nursa in Syria” and that “it’s mind-boggling that we protest Russia’s bombing of these terrorists.”
Two years later, she met with Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. He’s far from the only problematic figure with whom she’s aligned herself.
Gabbard is close to far-right, anti-Muslim, hawkish Indian prime minister Narendra Modi who used to be banned from the U.S. for his role in the Gujarat massacres. She has also received lots of $$$ from pro-Modi, right-wingers:https://t.co/9FeYJIEmjA
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 12, 2019
Gabbard has also refused to condemn torture.
Tulsi Gabbard sought to excuse CIA torture, and said she would consider ordering torture if she was president (in a “ticking time bomb” scenario that torture apologists often use. )
— Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) January 13, 2019
“When we stand united, motivated by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome,” her newly unveiled 2020 campaign site reads.
Gabbard said on Friday that she will formally announce her candidacy within a week.