Why Conservative Media and the Far Right Love Tulsi Gabbard for President

Why Conservative Media and the Far Right Love Tulsi Gabbard for President


The latest Democratic candidate to enter the 2020 race has an unexpected base of support: The far right and conservative media.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who announced her candidacy last Friday, has cultivated a fandom among the right by bashing fellow Democrats and espousing views that break with the party line.

Since taking office in 2013, Gabbard, 37, has established a reputation as an unorthodox politician. While holding familiar Democratic positions on environmental issues, health care, and gun control, Gabbard was a frequent critic of President Obama’s foreign policy, met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and has questioned whether he used chemical weapons on his own citizens.

Once discussed among party insiders as a rising star who signed on to be a vice chair at the Democratic National Committee, she quit in protest during the 2016 election and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

When she ran for re-election in 2018, she had the backing of liberal groups including the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood, yet she was briefly considered as a potential member for Trump’s cabinet, and cheered on his diplomatic overtures to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Since announcing her bid for the presidency, Gabbard has faced a torrent of criticism for some of her more eccentric politics, zeroing in on her equivocations on Assad and her past homophobic comments.

And, in the process, she has earned one prominent defender: Tucker Carlson.

In a Monday evening segment, featuring anti-war leftist journalist Glenn Greenwald, the Fox News host argued that Gabbard had been unfairly maligned because of her deep skepticism about intervention in Syria and willingness to talk to Assad.

“There’s something so stealthy and feline and dishonest about the way they’re attacking her,” Tucker said. “If you don’t like her foreign policy views, let’s just say so. But no one ever really wants to debate what our foreign policy should be. They just attack anyone who deviates from their own dumb ideas.”

Gabbard first became an in-demand Fox News guest in 2015 after she criticized Barack Obama’s unwillingness to use the label “radical Islamic terrorism.” Her media tour explaining that position earned her positively-tilted coverage in right-wing outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller—a trend that continued when she later expressed skepticism of Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

One person with direct knowledge told The Daily Beast that in the wake of her Obama criticism of Obama, Gabbard became an increasingly requested guest for Fox News hosts and producers to appear on-air. They weren’t the only ones in television news who took notice: senior executives at Sinclair Broadcasting made appeals for Gabbard to appear on their networks after she rebuked Obama.

And her emergence as a left-wing Obama critic further put Gabbard on the map in conservative media.

In May 2015, the National Review implored readers to “Meet the Beautiful, Tough Young Democrat Who’s Turning Heads by Challenging Obama’s Foreign Policy.” The conservative outlet touted Gabbard as having “endeared herself to right-wing hawks” by challenging Obama’s “rudderless” foreign policy. “I like her thinking a lot,” American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks was quoted as saying.

Gabbard has also maintained friendly relationships with high-profile, right-leaning television personalities, including Carlson and Fox News colleague Neil Cavuto, a long-time anchor and Trump skeptic who leans conservative on business issues.  

And earlier this month, after she accused her fellow Democratic senators of engaging in “religious bigotry” for asking questions about a Trump judicial nominee’s faith, she received yet another round of Fox News praise. Todd Starnes, a Fox pundit with a long history of anti-gay comments, wrote in an op-ed that he found Gabbard’s comments “encouraging.”


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