Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to seek the presidential nomination of a major party, has lashed out against a smear campaign by her Democratic Party’s leaders and their supportive media.
Reacting to attacks by former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Gabbard on Friday called her “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long”.
A US military combat veteran, who has seen war first hand, Gabbard has opposed US military involvement abroad and has called for bringing troops back home and has been criticised by some in her own party for her stand.
She added in a tweet that Clinton has “finally come out from behind the curtain” manipulating the campaign against her through her “powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose”.
Clinton, who had lost to President Donald Trump, had taken aim at Gabbard and alleged in a podcast by a campaign manager for former President Barack Obama that she was “a favourite of the Russians” and they were grooming her to be a third party candidate in next year’s election.
Clinton and her party have blamed the Russians for her loss rather than their own missteps and their condescension to an important segment of voters she dismissed as “despicables”.
Although partly a Samoan — a non-white minority — and not of Indian descent, Gabbard is a practicing Hindu.
Gabbard is a serving major in the Army National Guard that is similar to the Territorial Army.
In the middle of her campaign, she was called for active duty and deployed for two weeks in Indonesia in August.
Andre Yang, another candidate for the Democratic Party nomination to run against Trump, defended her, tweeting: “Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this. She literally just got back from serving our country abroad.”
The New York Times that often reflects the views of the Democratic Party establishment, last week published an attack on Gabbard trying to link her to “white nationalists and Russians” and the right.
Gabbard has disowned support from white nationalists.
The newspaper also criticised her for saying that the party leadership was trying to rig the 2020 election.
A commentator for CNN, which is owned by the telephone and telecommunications giant AT&T, “a puppet for the Russian government” shortly before the debate of Democrat candidates hosted by the channel and the Times.
During the debate, Gabbard called their campaign against her “despicable” and said, “New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war”.
Her opposition to foreign military entanglements and her criticism of big corporations gets her support across party and ideological lines, including from some white nationalists despite her racial and religious background.
She has said that the US should stop engaging in “regime change wars” to topple foreign leaders it does not like.
Clinton supported supported the disastrous US invasion of Iraq under what turned out to be a false premise that it had weapons of mass destruction and military intervention in Libya.
Gabbard has been criticised for her opposition to bombings in Syria and for meeting President Bashar al-Assad.
On domestic policies, she veers left supporting universal health care and restrictions on corporations.
Clinton’s feud with Gabbard goes back to the 2016 election when the latter had resigned as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to support Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
Gabbard had accused DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz of favouring Clinton over Sanders. Schultz later resigned when internal party communications published by WikiLeaks showed DNC staffers supported Clinton.
Gabbard is now running against Sanders.
After she was not allowed to participate in the second debate of candidates of Democratic Party nominations in September, Gaddard said: “A small group of really powerful political elites, the establishment, (are) making decisions that serve their interests, and maintaining that power, while the rest of us are left outside.”
Gabbard also had to contend with Google undercutting her campaign by suspending her ads at a crucial time when interest in her candidacy was soaring after the first debate.
She is suing the company in a federal court for $50 million for damaging her campaign and asking it stop Google “from further intermeddling” in the 2020 election, in effect censoring her.
Google denied the accusation and claimed the suspension was done automatically because her ad spending increased.
She has suffered from Hinduphobia and attacked as a “Hindu nationalist”.
In January, she wrote in an article for Religious News Service that “some media outlets have chosen to craft a false narrative” of characterising her and her supporters as “Hindu Nationalists” and “targeting and profiling them”.
Gabbard wrote that she was branded a “Hindu Nationalist” for meeting Modi even though others like former President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump, Clinton and some members of Congress have also met him.
“To question my commitment to my country, while not questioning non-Hindu leaders, creates a double standard that can be rooted in only one thing: religious bigotry. I am Hindu and they are not.”