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.
"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," Hillary Clinton to @davidplouffe https://t.co/DKH7BLTWs8
— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) October 18, 2019
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."
Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a ...
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 18, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang defended Gabbard, saying she "deserves more respect and thanks than this."
Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this. She literally just got back from serving our country abroad.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) October 19, 2019
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."
Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2019
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.
We’ve corrected this article and deleted an earlier tweet that incorrectly described Hillary Clinton’s recent comments from a podcast interview. https://t.co/DKKr3JzcKH
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) October 23, 2019
Clinton spokesperson Nick 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.
On Friday, the NYT did a piece about a podcast Secretary Clinton did with David Plouffe. They incorrectly quoted her saying that the “Russians” were “grooming” a candidate running in the Democratic primary. They rightfully fixed it to reflect that she was taking about the GOP. pic.twitter.com/iFCphQhZcU
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) October 22, 2019
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.
.@HillaryClinton, your foreign policy was a disaster for our country and the world. It’s time for you to acknowledge the damage you have caused and step down from your throne. https://t.co/r95HYvTjML pic.twitter.com/tSwCRx82sU
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 23, 2019
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the feud between Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton about?