Hillary Clinton on Thursday said President Donald Trump, the man who beat her in the 2016 election, posed a “clear and present danger” to the future of the country. Clinton was speaking at an event in Washington, DC. (Sept. 27) AP, AP
WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton kicked off a political firestorm last week after making comments about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign on an Oct. 17 podcast.
Clinton’s comments were initially erroneously reported as her saying Russians appeared to be “grooming” Gabbard, D-Hawaii, as a potential third-party presidential candidate. Clinton had actually suggested that it was the Republicans who were “grooming” Gabbard.
Clinton had been speaking on Democratic strategist David Plouffe’s podcast in a wide-ranging interview about President Donald Trump, impeachment, and the state of the 2020 Democratic primary.
Several outlets picked up on the story, prompting a response from Gabbard on Twitter and elevating Gabbard to the forefront of a news cycle.
The problem is, however, that much of the controversy comes from a misquote of Clinton’s remarks.
Clinton’s comments in context
Excerpts of Clinton’s remarks started to go viral after the release of Plouffe’s podcast, but it is important to put them in context since some of the initial reporting missed some crucial context around Clinton’s remarks.
In the podcast, Clinton had talked about how “they’ve got their eye on somebody” in the Democratic primary and are “grooming her,” followed by how “she’s the favorite of the Russians.” Out of context, it would appear that Clinton was referring to Russians “grooming” a candidate.
They’re also going to do third party. I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and 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. They know they can’t win without a third party candidate.
However, in the section of the podcast before those remarks, Clinton had been discussing the Republican Party’s attempts to defeat Democratic presidential candidates and her concerns that a third-party candidate would take away votes in close races from a Democratic candidate, as some Democrats believe Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green party candidate Jill Stein did in 2016.
Gabbard responds to Clinton
On Oct. 18, as Clinton’s misreported comments started to pick up traction, and several news outlets published stories on her remarks, Gabbard shot back on Twitter, calling Clinton the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang defended Gabbard, saying she “deserves more respect and thanks than this.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, a Democratic presidential candidate, also defended Gabbard, tweeting that “it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., responded to Gabbard’s tweet with a meme of his face from the first Democratic presidential debate.
About a week after the initial controversy, several news outlets corrected the reporting of Clinton’s remarks, including the version from the Associated Press used by USA TODAY.
Merrill highlighted The New York Times’ correction and slammed the coverage of Clinton’s remarks.
“I too am tired of talking about this, but let’s again set the record straight,” Merrill wrote on Twitter, using HRC to refer to Clinton. “HRC speculated that the only way the GOP is going to win in states where Trump can’t hit a 50% majority is to 1) Suppress the vote, as they do widely and routinely, & 2) Bank on the 3rd party spoiler.”
Merrill added that media reports showed Russian propaganda and disinformation networks being used to bolster Gabbard’s candidacy.
Gabbard, however, has continued her criticism of Clinton and has used it as a way to rally her supporters.
In an Oct. 23 tweet, Gabbard told Clinton to “acknowledge the damage you have caused and step down from your throne.” Gabbard tweeted that quote along with a link to a website for supporters to add their names to a list criticizing Clinton.
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