David Duke Has a New Favorite Candidate for 2020: Tulsi Gabbard

The Hawaii congresswoman quickly refused the former KKK leader’s endorsement.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Since launching her campaign for president on January 11, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has had to weather one controversy after another, from a shake-up in her campaign leadership to resurfaced allegations of her ties with nationalists and foreign autocrats

Tuesday brought more unwelcome attention in the form of a surprise endorsement from white supremacist David Duke.

On Twitter, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard embraced Gabbard as a “candidate who will actually put America First rather than Israel First.” Gabbard immediately condemned his apparent support in a statement that drew attention to her prior disavowals of him. “I have strongly denounced David Duke’s hateful views and his so-called ‘support’ multiple times in the past, and reject his support,” she said. 

Duke has long been a fan of Gabbard. After Trump’s election, he featured an article on his website that advocated for her to be secretary of state—with some reservations. “It’s not that she’s perfect. It has been noted that she at the very least pays lip-service to Israel,” Duke associate Patrick Slattery wrote. When Duke tweeted out the article that month, Gabbard rejected his support. “No thanks. Ur white nationalism is pure evil,” she tweeted

During her six years in Congress, Gabbard has drawn criticism for defending unsavory figures like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, whom she defended against allegations that he had deployed chemical weapons against his own citizens in 2017. A year earlier, the congresswoman visited Assad in Syria during a trip that spawned wide public backlash. As Mother Jones reported last month:

Gabbard was accompanied on the trip by two officials of a “political party and paramilitary organization founded in Lebanon in 1932, and currently actively engaged in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime,” according to an investigation by the Daily Beast. Her office said the trip was sponsored by an Ohio-based group, but the funds came from one of the party officials who accompanied Gabbard, Bassam Khawam. Khawam, a longtime Assad ally in the United States, is an official in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), which has a history of domestic violence at home in Lebanon, including the assassination of the country’s first prime minister in 1951. More recently in Syria, the SSNP has sent between 6,000 and 8,000 fighters across the border, as the Daily Beast described it, “to help the Assad regime annihilate its opponents, to whom the SSNP officially refers as the ‘Jews of the interior’ and ‘an essential arm of the racist Jewish enemy.’”

Gabbard eventually paid back the costs for the trip. 

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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