Tulsi Gabbard is suing Hillary Clinton for more than $50 million in damages following Clinton’s suggestion on a podcast that Gabbard was Russia’s favored candidate to win the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
The defamation lawsuit, which was made public Wednesday morning, claims the 2016 Democratic nominee permanently damaged the Hawaii congresswoman’s reputation by describing her as a “Russian asset.”
Clinton made the controversial remarks on the podcast Campaign HQ With David Plouffe back in October, when she said, “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians.”
In the key remarks to the lawsuit, Clinton added, “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.” It’s not clear from the quotes whether Clinton was referring to Gabbard, Stein, or both.
Although Clinton didn’t explicitly mention Gabbard during the remarks quoted in the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill clarified at the time, when asked if she was referencing Gabbard in the part about Russia favoring one of the existing candidates: “If the nesting doll fits.”
However, Merrill subsequently tweeted that Clinton’s comments were being misreported and said she was referring to the Republican Party grooming Gabbard to be a third-party candidate—not the Russians.
Reached for comment on Wednesday morning about the lawsuit, Merrill was succinct: “That’s ridiculous.”
The suit claims Clinton’s statements caused Gabbard to “lose potential donors and potential voters,” and estimated that the personal and professional damages to her exceed $50 million. It also claimed Gabbard is entitled to “special and punitive damages... in view of Clinton’s malicious and unrepentant conduct” on top of the actual damages.
The suit claims that Clinton has sought revenge on Gabbard ever since she endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. “Clinton—a cutthroat politician by any account—has never forgotten this perceived slight. And in October 2019, she sought retribution by lying, publicly and loudly, about Tulsi Gabbard,” the lawsuit states.
Gabbard’s lawyers say Clinton’s comments “spread like wildfire across the internet” and that millions of Americans accepted the statements as fact because they came from a “well-known authority figure.”
Gabbard has had a controversial tenure in Congress, particularly for her defense of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who she met with in Damascus in 2017 after the battle of Aleppo and who has been accused of war crimes and gassing his own people.
The suit goes on to say, “In short, Clinton got exactly what she wanted by lying about Tulsi—she harmed her political and personal rival’s reputation and ongoing presidential campaign, and started a damaging whisper campaign based on baseless, but vicious, untruths.”