The Untold Truth Of Tulsi Gabbard

Former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has already lived quite the life. As the Hawaii House details, she was the youngest person elected to Hawaii's state legislature in 2002, and she subsequently became the first state official to step down from public office to volunteer for duty. Gabbard served two Middle East tours as a major in the Army National Guard — 12-months as a field medic specialist in Iraq and one year as a military police platoon leader in Kuwait.

After military service, Gabbard was elected to the United States Congress in 2012, representing Hawaii, District 2. The Democrat riled constituents by introducing a trans-ban bill (via AP News) and speaking out against abortion (via The Rubin Report). In 2016, Reuters reported she eventually resigned her vice chair post on the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. And just a few years later, she joined the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race running on an anti-establishment message, as per The New York Times

Gabbard's refusal to abide by political guardrails led to Clinton's suggestion that Gabbard might be a Russian plant, groomed as a third-party candidate by the former Soviet state to secure Donald Trump's reelection bid. Per Politico, Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit in response, which Reuters reported was later dropped. Since ending her term in 2020, Gabbard has appeared on a number of political talk shows criticizing President Joe Biden and U.S. policy (via Rolling Stone). So who is this complex, contradictory figure? Let's dig in to uncover the untold truth.

Tulsi Gabbard was raised in a controversial religious sect

As Intelligencer reports, Tulsi Gabbard's parents were acolytes of the Science of Identity Foundation, a counterculture religious community founded by spiritual leader Chris Butler in the 1970s. Butler founded the belief system as an offshoot of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (aka, the Hindu Hare Krishna movement) near Kailua, Oahu. There, Gabbard's parents brought up their children under the guru's guidance — an alchemical mixture of Hindi practices, Catholic strictures, and 1970 ideals: strict vegetarianism, scientific skepticism, body and spirit dualism, criticism of consumerism, strict sexual mores, and intense homophobia.

Though the SIF describes "respect for people of different races or ethnicities or religions" on its homepage, its founder Butler has received negative press for Islamophobic commentary.

"The Mohammadian philosophy (Islam) is so full of violence. It's so low class. It's so Mickey Mouse ... It's so violent ... You're completely allowed to kill all infidels," Butler was quoted in a video posted to Twitter in 2019.

Per The New Yorker, Gabbard referred to Butler as her "guru dev" (spiritual guide) in 2015, but Gabbard has since been publicly silent about the SIF leader, conspicuously refusing to identify the spiritual group as a major influence.

She was first elected to Hawaii's legislature without a college degree

According to Ballot Ready, Tulsi Gabbard attended Leeward Community College to study television production but did not receive a degree. As the Honolulu Adviser reports, in 2002, she ran for the Hawaiian state legislature and became the youngest person to represent Hawaii's 42nd House district at 21 years old. Gabbard withdrew from seeking reelection two years later, instead volunteering for the U.S. Army National Guard. Oddly, because she already filed to run, Gabbard's name remained on the ballot. In the event of her reelection, the candidate reassured her constituency that she would not be derelict in her duties.

"My fellow legislators have assured me that they will cover for me, that they will be involved in my district and make certain that the people of my district are well taken care of while I'm on active military duty and in Iraq," she said at a 2004 Honolulu press conference.

Though Gabbard still took almost 23% of the 2004 vote, according to the Hawaii Office of Elections, Rep. Rida Cabanilla eventually won the seat. 

According to ABC News, she would go on to earn a bachelor's degree in international business in 2009 from Hawaii Pacific University. 

She blazed feminine military trails in the Middle East

From 2008 to 2009, Tulsi Gabbard was deployed to Kuwait, as per WMUR, where she became one of the first women to enter a Kuwaiti military facility, reports PBS. This not only broke with tradition, but earned her an award of appreciation from the Kuwait National Guard along the way.

The U.S. Office of the Historian notes that Kuwait began a relationship with the U.S. even before it was a country — an American consulate first opened there in 1951. That consulate converted to an embassy when Kuwait became a country in 1961. Per the Kuwaiti National Guard's homepage, the country first established its National Guard in 1967. Though Kuwait is a constitutional emirate (ruled by the Sabah family) with executive power shared with an elected assembly, according to the Kuwaiti government website, the state is Islamic and therefore guided by Shari'a law.

According to the Egyptian Islamic advisory board, Dar Al-Ifta, the Quran states that women can work as long as the job is safe, suits women's physical and mental makeup, and deemed permissible by Shari'a law. Gabbard's Kuwaiti service broke at least two of those strictures, forging a path and a record of women in the military in a Sunni Muslim nation.

She once sparred with a UFC champion

Tulsi Gabbard not only grew up practicing capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that blends dance, music and acrobatics, but has since studied taekwondo, tai chi, Filipino stick fighting, and jujitsu, according to a 2020 ABC News profile. The former representative suggested that this lifelong practice helped develop her rebellious stance in a tweet: "I started practicing martial arts as a kid and trained Capoeira for many years — an art that originated with slaves in Brazil as a form of resistance."

Gabbard is such a mixed martial art fan that she helped UFC Women's Strawweight Champion Weili Zhang overcome visa issues to reenter the U.S. Although how much of a role the representative played in greasing Zhang's way is up for debate, the partnership led to an unexpected friendship. The pair even sparred for the cameras upon Zhang's 2019 return to the states.

"Today I had the honor to meet and train with Miss tulsigabbard and she is a very strong martial artist," Zhang posted on Instagram in 2019. "It is a happy day when martial arts brings people together."

Tulsi Gabbard was the first Hindu member of Congress

In 2012, Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu member of Congress. In 2013, she became the first elected congressperson to swear their oath of office on the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita.

"I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country," HuffPost quoted Gabbard post swearing-in. "My Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East."

The daughter of a Roman Catholic father and a Caucasian Hindu mother, Gabbard's first name derives from the Sanskrit word for holy basil, which Hindus regard as a sacred plant (via CT Insider). Gabbard believes that these non-traditional roots do not hinder her political aspirations.

"Absolutely [a Hindu can be in the White House one day]," Gabbard told The Atlantic. "When you look at the national issues that our country is facing, people are not qualified or disqualified because of their spiritual practice. People are looking for someone they can trust."

She sports contradictory political supporters

Tulsi Gabbard is an outspoken opponent of the entire Washington D.C. power structure. "There is indeed a serious domestic threat to our democracy: the unholy alliance of permanent Washington, the national security apparatus, Big Tech, and the mainstream propaganda media to target tens of millions of ordinary Americans as domestic terrorists," Gabbard tweeted on September 13, 2022.

This broad condemnation has earned Gabbard some contradictory political bedfellows. She resigned from the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016, as per Reuters, and she spoke at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (via Politico).

Liberals love her fierce environmentalism, and conservative Republicans celebrate her critical stances on homosexuality, as per the Washington Blade. Gabbard supports progressive issues like single payer health care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage, notes Politico, yet she is a regular guest on Fox News shows criticizing President Joe Biden, especially his foreign policy decisions associated with Russia and Ukraine.

While guest hosting "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Gabbard informed her Fox News audience that Attorney General Merrick Garland's actions in raiding former President Donald Trump's home at the Mar-a-Lago Club have "all hallmarks of a dictatorship." She also accused Biden of working to bring "about a 'new world order'" (via Twitter).

She was the only congressperson to vote 'present' in response to Trump's impeachment

In September 2019, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower charged that sitting President Donald Trump solicited political favors from Ukraine in exchange for $400 million in aid. "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," Pelosi said during the announcement (via ABC News).

As Vox details, in an unexpected move, Tulsi Gabbard only voted "present" in a referendum that fell almost completely along party lines (with only two Democrats voting against impeachment and zero Republicans voting for). This party-line vote, Gabbard indicated in a lengthy statement, was the very reason for her abstention.

While she indicated her belief that Trump was culpable, Gabbard decided to voice her concerns, labeling the impeachment process as "fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country."

"My vote today is a vote for much needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country," Gabbard wrote (as posted by Jack Tapper on Twitter). I am confident that the American people will decide to deliver a resounding rebuke of President Trump's innumerable improprieties and abuses. And they will express that judgment at the ballot box."

She helped to legalize hemp consumption by military members

Just a few months before Tulsi Gabbard would decline to seek reelection to Congress to pursue further political goals, she made a stand for her fellow veterans, sponsoring an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to allow military members to consume hemp products, as per Newsweek.

On Monday, July 18, 2020, the House of Representatives voted 336 to 71 to approve a package of multiple amendments to the NDAA, including Gabbard's amendment. Gabbard's addendum to the bill was a response to the Department of Defense policy banning the use of hemp products by active duty and reserve members of the military despite hemp's legality under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018.

"This is affecting those dealing with opioid addiction. This is affecting farmers. This is affecting small business owners. This is affecting our veterans and those who are locked up in our broken criminal justice system because of this prohibition," Gabbard said on The Jimmy Dore Show in 2019.

Technical procedures for delineating between marijuana use associated with the psychoactive chemical THC and the non-psychoactive CBD are still being hashed out. At present, all military departments will issue punitive general orders from the still prohibited use of CBD and other products derived from hemp, as per the Department of Defense.

As President, she would have worked to legalize all drugs

Tulsi Gabbard expressed her advocacy for decriminalizing any and all drugs during her presidential run in 2020. "The direction we need to take is decriminalizing an individual's choice to use whatever substances that are there while still criminalizing those who are traffickers and dealers of these drugs," the congresswoman said during an interview with ABC News correspondent John Stossel in 2019.

When Stossel pushed Gabbard to elaborate, she maintained issuing criminal penalties against people who sell these street drugs, even if they're declared legal. "I think there's a difference here where you have those who are profiting off of selling substances that are harmful to others as opposed to those who are making those choices on their own to do what they wish with their bodies," Gabbard said.

Though her fellow democratic nominees like Pete Buttigieg offered their support for decriminalizing drug possession, Gabbard went a step further in proposing to make all drugs legal with regulation (via Twitter). She stood on board the same platform as her peers in using this legalization to wean people from prescription drugs.

In her formal February 19, 2019, campaign launch speech, Gabbard criticized a criminal justice system that "puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full" (via C-SPAN).

Hillary Clinton isn't the only politician to call her a Russian agent

Tulsi Gabbard is no stranger to tangling with "the establishment" in Washington D.C. Almost exactly two years after Hillary Clinton called the Congresswoman a Russian plant, Sen. Mitt Romney accused her of spreading pro-Russian propaganda. "Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives," he tweeted on March 13, 2022.

Romney's tweet was in response to a March interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News on which Gabbard expressed that she was worried about supposed U.S.-backed bio labs in Ukraine. She followed this up with a Twitter video claiming there were more than 25 "U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens."

While a publicly available agreement describes an arrangment between Ukraine and the U.S. to prevent the production of bio-weapons, no evidence exists to support Gabbard's and Carlson's claim. This did not prevent Gabbard from clapping back.

"When powerful, influential people make baseless accusations of treason, they are sending a message to all Americans: if you dare to criticize the establishment's narrative, you will be smeared and discredited. If this is allowed to continue, our democracy will be no more," Gabbard tweeted along with a link to another interview with Tucker Carlson where she demands that Romney retract his statements and again calls out the government. 

She continues to lay blame on U.S. leaders for the continued conflict in Ukraine

In response to the natural gas pipeline leaks coming from the sabotaged Nord Stream pipeline, Tulsi Gabbard continues to lambast U.S. leaders for escalating and sustaining the war in Ukraine post the February 2022 Russian invasion. On "Tucker Carlson Tonight" she accused both the U.S. and Europe for taking a passive approach, arguing that leaders from both countries are taking the stance that there's nothing to be done. 

"The United States, our leaders, and European leaders, are the ones fueling and funding this war," Gabbard said at the end of September. "They have a heck of a lot of leverage to be able to push for a cease-fire, negotiate an outcome and an end to this war and to actually fight for peace and prosperity."

Gabbard did not hesitate to label political inaction as a purposeful continuation of conflict.

"We need to know that if they're not doing that (and they aren't right now)," Gabbard said. "What they are doing is pushing for more destruction, more war, and therefore, a lack of peace and prosperity and more suffering for us and people around the world."