THE TULSI GABBARD BASHAR AL-ASSAD CONTROVERSY EXPLAINED
BY TOM O'CONNOR
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard got a massive popularity boost for her prospective path to the presidency on Wednesday when she attacked fellow Democrat Senator Kamala Harris' record as California's attorney general, but it wasn't long before an entirely different figure altogether resurfaced in her limelight—Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
After meeting the Syrian leader on a quiet "fact-finding" mission in early 2017, his image in the U.S. as an alleged war criminal and human rights abuser followed Gabbard home and has been a frequent target of criticism for her. Two and a half years later, she has refused to apologize for what she has argued was an effort to better understand the conflict in Syria, where various international actors including the U.S. have helped to fuel an eight-year civil war over competing geopolitical interests.
Gabbard again had to defend herself following Tuesday's Democratic debate, where she first accused Harris of having "blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so" and of prolonging sentences to use inmates as "cheap labor," among other charges during her time as California's top attorney. Gabbard argued: "The people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor, you owe them an apology."
The remarks were met with applause both at the venue and across social media and were among the highlights of Wednesday's war of words, but following the event, Harris went after Gabbard's own background in an interview with CNN.