Rep. Gabbard's Lawyers Accuse Hillary Clinton of Defamation Over "Favorite of the Russians" Comment
Gabbard’s lawyers issued a public letter to Hillary Clinton, demanding the former Secretary of state, retract her remarks about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in a podcast, in which Clinton said that the Russians are “grooming” Gabbard to run as a third-party candidate in the 2020 presidential election
Read the Letter:
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We write you on behalf of our client Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
On October 17, 2019, you published this statement on the podcast Campaign HQ With David Plouffe: “I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is 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.”
One day after making this statement, CNN asked your spokesman whether this statement was made about Congresswoman Gabbard. He responded yes: “If the nesting doll fits.”
Your statement is defamatory, and we demand that you retract it immediately.The statement is false.
Congresswoman Gabbard is not being groomed by Russia to be a third-party candidate. Nor is she a Russian asset. Rather, she is a patriotic loyal American, a sitting four-term United States Congresswoman and a Major in the United States Army National Guard. As such, she is a loyal American who has taken an oath declaring her allegiance to the United States of America both as a soldier and as a member of Congress. She has been serving for over 16 years in the Army National Guard, having voluntarily deployed twice to war zones in the Middle East.
It appears you may now be claiming that this statement is about Republicans (not Russians) grooming Gabbard.
But this makes no sense in light of what you actually said. After you made the statement linking Congresswoman Gabbard to the Russians, you (through your spokesman) doubled down on it with the Russian nesting dolls remark. This Republicans-not-Russians spin developed only after you realized the defamatory nature of your statement, and therefore your legal liability, as well as the full extent of the public backlash against your statement.
Moreover, the Republicans-not-Russians spin cannot explain away your statement that Congresswoman Gabbard is “a Russian asset.”
That is, of course, because your Republicans-not-Russians spin is rubbish.
In any event, this strained interpretation bears no legal weight. Defamation claims are not determined by the speaker’s post-hoc rationalizations. They are determined by how the statement was “read and understood by the public . . . .” Here, the public universally understood your statement exactly as you intended to be understood, and exactly as you made it: that Tulsi Gabbard—a sitting Congresswoman, U.S. Army Major, and candidate for President of the United States—is a Russian asset. This is how your statement was understood by those in political circles, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Andrew Yang.
In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia. Besides your statement, no law enforcement or intelligence agencies have claimed, much less presented any evidence, that Congresswoman Gabbard is a Russian asset. This fabricated story is so facially improbable that it is actionable as defamation.
In light of this, we demand that you immediately hold a press conference to verbally retract—in full—your comments. We also demand that you immediately publish this full and fair retraction on the twitter account @HillaryClinton, and distribute it to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post:
On October 17, 2019, I made certain statements about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Among other things, I accused her of being a Russian asset and that Russia was grooming her to be a third-party presidential candidate.
I was wrong. I never should have made these remarks, and I apologize. I did not have any basis for making the statements. I acknowledge my grave mistake and error in judgment in this matter.
I support and admire the work that Congresswoman Gabbard has done and will continue to do in serving our country.