The rumors started in October when Hillary Clinton suggested 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard — who frequently criticizes and highlights the Democratic Party’s flaws — could be a “Russian agent.”
Of course, Republicans love Gabbard’s criticism of Democrats, and her comments have been picked up, praised and redistributed by moderate conservatives, white nationalists and Trump-supporting Russians alike.
The left-leaning mainstream press — who love moderate Democrat candidates and isn’t exactly shy about its dislike for Gabbard — pounced.
“What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” asked a New York Times news article. MSNBC political commentators hosted a panel discussing how because Gabbard didn’t deny being a Russian agent which, they suggested, made the allegation more legitimate.
NBC News ran a story based on a report from the Foreign Policy Institute finding that Russian web trolls “boost Gabbard, boo Biden,” consistent with 2016 findings that Russian web trolls promoted Donald Trump and consistently shared negative coverage of Hillary Clinton.
The conclusion? Gabbard — like Trump — must be a Russian agent (never mind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report finding no collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in 2016).
Then Trump defended Gabbard, saying she wasn’t a Russian agent then adding, “[Clinton is] accusing everyone of being a Russian agent.”
His comments threw gasoline on the fire.
“Tulsi Gabbard may not be a Russian asset. But she sure talks like one,” reads an opinion headline from the Los Angeles Times, citing as evidence all of Gabbard’s critiques of her own party.
Apparently, that’s all a person needs to do to be a Russian asset: dare to criticize the Democratic Party.
Ironically, many of the establishment Democrats and Democratic policy positions Gabbard criticizes have also been criticized by 2020 Democratic contenders and senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Most notably, both Gabbard and Sanders have been very vocal about their anti-war and anti-interventionist stances, a policy position most center-left Democrats don’t like. But Sanders isn’t receiving the same “Russian asset” treatment. Then again, left-leaning media organizations aren’t exactly fans of Sanders, either.
“If you’re not a ‘team player,’ then of course you’re a threat,” wrote Krystal Ball, liberal co-host of The Hill’s “Rising” news show. “When you are a threat to the political establishment, you are inherently a threat to the careers of journalists who rely on access to that political establishment.”
For Gabbard, that means her fellow Democrats and the media think she’s a Russian agent.
As CNN political commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas tweeted, “Folks, when both the Russians and Trump support someone, be wary. Be very wary.”