As the DNC deals with a report that there is an effort by some members to work to block Sanders at the national convention, presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) is also facing a concerted effort by the Democratic establishment to cut her off from voters. In a particularly chilling ratcheting up of the anti-Gabbard rhetoric in October, CNN analyst Bakari Sellers called her a Russian puppet — an accusation the mirrors the allegation by Hillary Clinton that she is an actual Russian asset. The Hill has an article on the controversy that notes that CNN invites other candidates with less support in polls and has refused to respond to queries on why she is being locked out. This follows the shockingly biased questions targeting Bernie Sanders by CNN reporter Abby Phillips.
Gabbard, a veteran, is a long-standing and leading anti-war activist. That stance has earned her the ire of many in the Democratic establishment as she has attacked figures like Hillary Clinton for her hawkish record in supporting wars in Iraq and Libya.
The Hill article notes that she is polling ahead of other invitees. That leaves the appearance of a raw bias against Gabbard by CNN, which invited candidates like Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick who does not even appear on most national polling. Also invited are Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer who are polling below Gabbard. In New Hampshire, Gabbard is beating Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) with 8 percent in polling.
The most outrageous moment however came from CNN analyst Sellers who declared on the air that “There is no question, there is no question that Tulsi Gabbard, of all the 12, is a puppet for the Russian government.” Sellers is a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Like the Clinton attack, it is a return to the Red Scare attacks of the McCarthy period — painting anti-war candidates as fellow travelers with the Russians. Gabbard has sued Clinton over the statements, though such lawsuits are dubious in light of the higher standard applied to public officials and public figures under New York Times v. Sullivan.
CNN seems unwilling to fully address the obvious bias against Gabbard and Sanders or to explain why she should be barred in favor of candidates with a smaller following, including Patrick who has no discernible national support — at least sufficient support to register in national polling.