On Friday (11 January), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced her bid for President of the United States in 2020. Immediately, people began circulating her past homophobic comments.
Though on her website, it says discrimination ‘undermines core American principles’ and that she supports The Equality Act, comments she’s made contradict this.
Earlier in her political career, she referred to the LGBTI community and advocates as ‘homosexual extremists’.
In 2004 as a state representative, she testified against a bill aimed at legalizing same-sex civil unions in Hawaii.
‘To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,’ she said at the time. ‘As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.’
She also worked with her father on his organization The Alliance for Traditional Marriage. The organization opposed homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and also supported conversion therapy.
Gabbard provided a statement to the Huffington Post on Sunday (13 January).
‘First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,’ she said. ‘I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey.
‘Over the past six years in Congress, I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to help work toward passing legislation that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues.’
She concluded by stating ‘if elected President, I will continue to fight for equal rights for all’.
Still a lack of support
Despite this statement, many people are still calling out Gabbard online.
This tweet links to a 2016 profile of Gabbard, in which Gabbard reportedly said her ‘personal views haven’t changed, but she doesn’t figure it’s her job to do as the Iraqis did and force her own beliefs on others’.
Her statement stems from her time in a combat zone in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 when she served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Some critiques of Gabbard were more satirical in nature, but no less biting.
I feel like Tulsi Gabbard didn’t even think to clear her browser history before she clicked on “Run For President”
— Sam Sanders (@samsanders) January 14, 2019
Waiting for the inevitable Kevin Hart endorsement of Tulsi Gabbard, 2020.
— jelani cobb (@jelani9) January 14, 2019
Tulsi Gabbard, thank you for giving me the opportunity to finally say “I’d vote for a woman, just not that woman”
— rhea butcher (@RheaButcher) January 12, 2019
Critics also slammed Gabbard for earning the support of the likes of David Duke and Steve Bannon — though she did not accept their support.
And Gabbard has also been endorsed/praised by David Duke, Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon. Yes, I'm well aware that she has repudiated that support – but ask yourself this: Why is it that top white nationalists are so keen on Tulsi Gabbard and her presidential run? Why?
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) January 12, 2019
Finally, people also expressed wariness over Gabbard’s past remarks about Syrian President Assad, as well as meeting with him.
Tulsi Gabbard’s disturbing and singular denialism of Assad’s role in the brutal butchering of his own people, obliging a meeting with him and spreading his propaganda should be disqualifying. pic.twitter.com/EI3UiEvLuu
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) January 12, 2019
Gabbard was first elected to the US Congress in 2012 and became both the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of Congress.