We explain who she is and when she met with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
Who is Tulsi Gabbard?
Tulsi Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981 and has been a US Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district since 2013.
She was home-schooled through high school except for two years when she attended a girls-only missionary academy in the Philippines.
The 37-year-old obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Hawaii Pacific University in 2009.
She is a member of the Democratic Party and she is the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of the US Congress.
Gabbard was first elected to the House of Representatives at age 21 and served from 2002 to 2004.
She then served in the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and was later deployed to Kuwait.
On January 11, 2019 she announced her campaign to run for president of the US in 2020.
When did she meet Bashar Al-Assad?
In January 2017, Gabbard met with Bashar Al-Assad during a trip to Syria.
She said in a press release that the trip was approved by the House Ethics Committiee.
Gabbard "reportedly declined to inform House leadership in advance, met with Bashar al-Assad, toured with officials from a Lebanese political party that actively supports Assad, and received funding from an American organisation that counts one of those same officials as its executive director".
She later said she paid for the trip with her own money.
In February 2017, it was reported she didn’t comply with House Ethics rules as she didn’t file the forms by the deadline, however her office disputes that.
What anti-gay comments has she made in the past?
In the early 2000s, Gabbard reportedly worked for her father’s anti-gay organisation.
The organisation helped to pass a measure against same-sex marriage in Hawaii and promoted the controversial conversion therapy.
Her father ran The Alliance for Traditional Marriage that spent more than £77,000 ($100,000) on pass an amendment to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples”.
At the time she told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin: “Working with my father, Mike Gabbard, and others to pass a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, I learned that real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good. I will bring that attitude of public service to the legislature.”
She opposed LGBT rights in the late 90s and 2000s, but has shifted dramatically in recent years.
Gabbard told CNN in a statement: “First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said. I'm grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey."
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