- Meghan McCain called Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard an “Assad apologist” during a Wednesday appearance on “The View.”
- Gabbard has long faced criticism over her stance toward Assad.
- Gabbard said “there’s no disputing the fact” that Assad is “brutal dictator” who “has used chemical weapons” against his people, but she would not call him an “enemy” of the US.
Since Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard declared she’s running for president in 2020, she’s been hammered in interviews over her controversial interactions with and statements on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Gabbard’s Wednesday appearance on ABC’s “The View” was no exception to the trend as the Hawaii Democrat got into a heated debate with host Meghan McCain.
As Gabbard discussed her foreign policy stance, McCain interrupted to address the lawmaker’s stance on Assad.
“When I hear the name Tulsi Gabbard, I think of Assad apologist. I think of someone who comes back to the United States and is spouting propaganda from Syria,” McCain said.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says "there's no disputing the fact" that Bashar Al-Assad is a "brutal dictator" who "has used chemical weapons" against his people, but adds that amid the US's "regime-change war," the "lives of the Syrian people have not been improved" https://t.co/Y6QetTrzFB pic.twitter.com/s3a0OfJe7T
— The View (@TheView) February 20, 2019
McCain went on to press Gabbard on whether she believes Assad is an “enemy” of the US. In a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Gabbard refused to apply the label to Assad and was widely criticised as a result.
The Hawaii congresswoman told McCain an enemy of the US can be defined as “someone who threatens our safety and our security,” and Gabbard does not feel Assad qualifies in this regard.
Rejecting some of McCain’s characterizations of her stance toward Assad, the congresswoman added that “there’s no disputing the fact” that Assad – an accused war criminal – is “brutal dictator” who “has used chemical weapons” against his people.
Gabbard said she was not “disputing” or “defending” any of Assad’s actions, but went on to cite concerns she has about the nature of the US military’s involvement in Syria.
“This regime change war we’ve been waging in Syria has not helped the Syrian people, it has made their lives worse off,” Gabbard said. “It has also undermined our national security.”
The US has been fighting ISIS in Syria since 2014 and under President Donald Trump has launched limited military strikes on Assad in response to intelligence pointing to the use of chemical weapons on civilians.
But it was not clear what Gabbard meant by contending the US has been engaged in a “covert regime change war” in Syria. Gabbard’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for clarification from INSIDER.
The late GOP Sen. John McCain – Meghan McCain’s father – criticised the congresswoman’s visit at the time. The elder McCain said Gabbard’s visit with Assad sent the “wrong signal” and “kind of legitimises a guy who butchered 400,000 of his own people.”
Gabbard also drew backlash when she subsequently expressed scepticism over reports Assad had used chemical weapons on civilians. The presidential hopeful, who’s a combat veteran and a fierce anti-interventionist, has also been critical of Trump’s military strikes against Assad.
In recent weeks, Gabbard has made it clear she opposes the ongoing presence of roughly 2,000 US soldiers in Syria. But she also does not agree with Trump’s plan to withdraw the troops due to concerns over the safety of the Kurds, who have played a vital role in the fight against ISIS while facing simultaneous threats from the Turkish government.
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