Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard borrowed a page from Donald Trump’s political handbook over the weekend, blasting an unflattering report about her campaign as “fake news.”
The Hawaii congresswoman was the target of a Daily Beast article about a small number of campaign donors who sympathize with Russia, and fired back during an appearance on ABC’s This Week. As Politico noted, Gabbard told host George Stephanopoulos that she questioned the veracity of the story, but worded her complaint in terms more commonly used by Donald Trump.
“You know, it’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news,” Gabbard said. “What I am focused on is what is in the best interest of the American people, what is in the best interest of our national security, keeping the American people safe.”
The term “fake news” rose to prominence the 2016 presidential campaign, when a number of websites published articles with outright lies, mostly in support of Donald Trump. They included falsehoods like Pope Francis or Morgan Freeman endorsing Trump, and often found viral interest online where many people would share them without knowing — or often without checking — that they were fake. Social media sites struggled to respond, instead often helping to amplify the outright fake stories.
The phrase was later adopted by Donald Trump and used dozens of times on his Twitter feed, often in reference not to stories that are untrue but those that are critical of Trump or his administration. Trump still uses the term frequently today, including on some stories that were later proven to be correct.
Gabbard’s response on Sunday drew her some criticism online, with some left-leaning Twitter pundits drawing unflattering comparisons to Trump himself.
On @ThisWeekABC, Tulsi Gabbard dismisses report her campaign is being boosted by Putin apologists as "a whole lot of fake news" … but doesn't refute a single claim in the article. How Trumpian. pic.twitter.com/24Qa1fDvaQ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 19, 2019
But Gabbard has her defenders as well, including those who agreed with her assessment of the Daily Beast article. As political commentator Krystal Ball noted, the report dug through tense of thousands of campaign contributors to find just three three that had pro-Russia views.
This propaganda is embarrassingly bad. Neo-McCarthyite hacks are implying anti-war candidate @TulsiGabbard is a Kremlin shill. Their "evidence"? Donations from renowned scholar Stephen F. Cohen and from a US peace activist who doesn't want war with Russiahttps://t.co/FY1x7jfogi
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) May 17, 2019
Total bs fabricated smear of @TulsiGabbard Don’t buy it. She has more than 65,000 donors and they found 3 with views that fit their pre-conceived narrative. Tulsi has literally put her life on the line for our country. You may not like her views but she’s a patriot. Full stop. pic.twitter.com/xB43cwR8Hb
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) May 17, 2019
Tulsi Gabbard has been known to buck Democratic Party conventions in the past. She was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign and even resigned from her position with the Democratic National Committee to endorse him in the early days of the Democratic primary. After Trump won, Gabbard traveled to Trump Tower to meet with the then-president-elect. She came under criticism from some Democrats, but as CNBC reported, Gabbard defended the meeting as “frank and positive.”