Tulsi Gabbard (; born April 12, 1981) is an American politician and military veteran serving as the U.S.
Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, Maoputasi County, on American Samoa's main island of Tutuila. She was the fourth of five children born to Mike Gabbard and his wife Carol (née Porter) Gabbard. In 1983, when Gabbard was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii. Her father is a member of the Hawaii Senate.
In 1998, at age 17, Gabbard worked for her father's anti-gay organization, which mobilized to pass a measure against same-sex marriage in Hawaii and promoted controversial conversion therapy. In 2002 she touted that work when running for the state legislature. In 2004 she testified at a Hawaii legislative hearing in opposition to civil unions.
Gabbard was also a cofounder of the non-profit Stand Up For America (SUFA), which she and her father co-founded in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. SUFA's website profiled Gabbard and hosted letters from her sent during her deployments overseas. In September 2010 SUFA's website came under criticism for promoting her campaign for the Honolulu City Council. Gabbard said the improper addition "was an honest mistake from a volunteer," and the page and link in question were immediately removed.
Gabbard was sharply critical of the U.S. decision to deny Modi a visa over allegations of his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots, calling it a "great blunder" that could have undermined the US-India relationship. In 2013 she joined some of her colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee in opposing a House resolution that called for continuing the ban on Modi and for "religious freedom and related human rights to be included in the United States-India Strategic Dialogue and for such issues to be raised directly with federal and state Indian government officials". The bill admonished India to protect "the rights and freedoms of religious minorities" and specifically mentioned incidents of mass violence against India's Muslim minority that took place during Modi's tenure. Gabbard justified her opposition by saying the resolution would weaken the friendship between India and the US and citing its timing as interfering with India's elections, while emphasizing the need for the U.S. to stand for religious freedom. She later also said that "there was a lot of misinformation that surrounded the event in 2002." Five months later President Obama lifted the ban and invited Modi to visit him in the White House.
Gabbard's first name comes from Sanskrit. Tulsi is the name for Holy Basil, a plant sacred in Hinduism. Her siblings also have Hindu Sanskrit-origin names. During her childhood Gabbard excelled in martial arts, and was interested in gardening. She is a surfer and an accomplished athlete. In 2002 she was a martial arts instructor. She is a vegetarian and, as a Hindu, follows Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a religious movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the 16th century. Gabbard describes herself as a karma yogi. She values the Bhagavad Gita as a spiritual guide, and used it when she took the oath of office in 2013.
In 2002 Gabbard married Eduardo Tamayo. They divorced in 2006. She cites "the stresses war places on military spouses and families" as a reason for their divorce. In 2015 Gabbard married freelance cinematographer and editor Abraham Williams.
In 2002, after redistricting, Gabbard (as Tulsi Tamayo) ran to represent the 42nd House District of the Hawaii House of Representatives. She won the four-candidate Democratic primary with a plurality of 48% of the vote over Rida Cabanilla. Gabbard then defeated Republican Alfonso Jimenez in the general election, 65%–35%. At the age of 21 Gabbard became the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii's history and the youngest woman ever elected to a U.S. state legislature.
In April 2003, while serving in the State Legislature, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard. In July 2004 she was deployed for a 12-month tour in Iraq, serving as a specialist with the Medical Company, 29th Support Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Gabbard served at Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Iraq, completing her tour in 2005. Anaconda had the nickname "Mortaritaville" because of the high frequency of Iraqi insurgent mortars targeting it.
In 2004 Gabbard filed for reelection, but then volunteered for Army National Guard service in Iraq. Cabanilla, who filed to run against her, called on the incumbent to resign because she would not be able to represent her district from Iraq. Gabbard chose not to campaign for a second term, and Cabanilla won the Democratic primary, 64%–25%.
On January 22, 2013, Gabbard was elected to a four-year term as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She was critical of chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's decision to hold only six debates during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, compared with 26 in 2008 and 15 in 2004. Along with Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak and two candidates, Gabbard called for more debates, appearing on multiple news outlets to express her dissatisfaction with the reduction in the number. Later she was either "disinvited" or asked to "consider not coming" to the Democratic debate in Las Vegas as a consequence. In a phone interview with the New York Times, Gabbard spoke of an unhealthy atmosphere and the feeling that she had "checked [her free speech] at the door" in taking the job.
In 2006 Gabbard began serving as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka in Washington, D.C., and in March 2007 she graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy. Gabbard was the first woman to finish as the distinguished honor graduate in the Academy's 50-year history. She was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Hawaii Army National Guard, this time to serve as an Army Military Police officer. She was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009. There, as a primary trainer for the Kuwait National Guard, she was among the first women to ever set foot inside a Kuwait military facility. She was also the first woman to be honored for outstanding work in its training program.
After returning home from her second deployment to the Middle East in 2009, Gabbard ran for a seat on the Honolulu City Council. Incumbent City Councilman Rod Tam, of the 6th district, decided to retire in order to run for Mayor of Honolulu. In the ten-candidate nonpartisan open primary in September 2010, Gabbard finished first with 33% of the vote. In the November 2 runoff election she defeated Sesnita Moepono, 58%–42%.
Gabbard was home-schooled through high school except for two years at a Christian missionary academy for girls in the Philippines. She graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 2009.
On April 30, 2011, Gabbard informed her constituents that she was resuming the use of her birth name, Tulsi Gabbard, and that there would be no cost to city taxpayers for reprinting City Council materials containing her name. She resigned from the council on August 16, 2012, to focus on her congressional campaign.
In early 2011 Mazie Hirono, the incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, announced that she would run for the United States Senate. In May 2011 Gabbard announced her candidacy for Hirono's House of Representatives seat. She was endorsed by the Sierra Club, Emily's List and VoteVets.org. The Democratic Mayor of Honolulu, Mufi Hannemann, was the best-known candidate in the six-way primary, but Gabbard won with 62,882 votes (55% of the total); the Honolulu Star-Advertiser called her win an "improbable rise from a distant underdog to victory." Gabbard resigned from the City Council on August 16 to prevent the cost of holding a special election.
Gabbard's positions on LGBTQ+ rights have since shifted dramatically. She cites having seen "the destructive effect of having governments … act as moral arbiters for their people" while she was deployed overseas. When running for Congress in 2012, Gabbard apologized to LGBT activists for her past comments.
In 2012 Gabbard supported the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. In 2014 she voted for Audit the Federal Reserve legislation. In 2017 Gabbard supported a bill to increase the hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2024. In 2018 she voted with the minority against a bill that she said worked to undo state-level legislation seeking to curb maximum interest rates on loans. She said that interest rates could reach an annual percentage rate (APR) of 459 percent in Hawaii, which has no such state-level legislation.
As the Democratic nominee, Gabbard traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, and spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She credited grassroots support as the reason for her come-from-behind win in the primary. Gabbard won the general election on November 6, 2012, defeating Republican Kawika Crowley, by 168,503 to 40,707 votes (80.6%−19.4%), becoming the first Samoan-American and first Hindu member of Congress.
In December 2012 Gabbard applied to be considered for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Daniel Inouye, but despite support from prominent mainland Democrats, she was not among the three candidates the Democratic Party of Hawaii selected.
In 2013 Gabbard sponsored legislation to require GMO labeling. In 2016 she voted against a GMO-labeling bill, saying it was too weak.
In 2013, Gabbard opposed the Obama administration's proposed military strikes in Syria and in November 2015 introduced legislation to block CIA activities in Syria and U.S. military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This legislation was referred to Committees and subsequently blocked.
Since joining Congress in 2013, Gabbard has co-sponsored pro-LGBT legislation, signed an amicus brief supporting Edith Windsor's challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, and supported legislation such as The Equality Act, a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT individuals, and other efforts to promote LGBT equality, including the repeal of DOMA, the Restore Honor to Servicemembers Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Equality for All Resolution.
In March 2013, Gabbard introduced the Helping Heroes Fly Act, seeking to improve airport security screenings for severely wounded veterans. It passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. She also led an effort to pass legislation to assist victims of military sexual trauma.
Gabbard's views on Islamic terrorism have distinguished her from many mainstream Democrats. In 2015 she met with U.S.-backed authoritarian Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss "the threat of ISIS and Islamic extremist groups", two years after he led the August 2013 Rabaa massacre, which killed hundreds of civilians. She has advocated increasing pressure on Pakistan to stop terrorist attacks and expressed "solidarity with India" in reference to the 2016 Uri attack.
On November 25, 2013, Gabbard received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award at a ceremony at the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government for her efforts on behalf of veterans.
On March 26, 2014, Elle honored Gabbard, with others, at the Italian Embassy in the United States during its annual "Women in Washington Power List".
Gabbard was reelected on November 8, 2014, defeating Crowley again, by 142,010 to 33,630 votes (78.7%–18.6%); Libertarian candidate Joe Kent garnered 4,693 votes (2.6%). PACs contributed $434,000 to Gabbard's 2014 campaign.
In a December 2014 interview Gabbard said she was "conflicted" about the report published that week on the CIA's use of torture in interrogations, saying, "the jury is still out on the report". She also said that while she abhorred torture, were there an imminent danger to American citizens, as president she "would do everything in my power to keep the American people safe."
Gabbard has been described as out of step with other Democrats on immigration. In 2015 she voted with Congressional Republicans in favor of a bill requiring "extreme vetting" of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The Obama administration said the bill would effectively stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. That same year she called for a suspension of the visa waiver program for European passport holders.
Gabbard supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. In March 2015, unlike 58 other Democrats, she did not boycott Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the U.S. Congress, saying at the time that relations "must rise above the political fray, as America continues to stand with Israel as her strongest ally." On July 14, 2015, Gabbard attended the Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a conservative leaning organization.
On July 15, 2015, Gabbard received the Friend of the National Parks Award from the National Parks Conservation Association.
On October 12, 2015, Gabbard was promoted from captain to major at a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Akaka administered the oath of office to the new major. She continues to serve as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Gabbard resigned as DNC Vice Chair on February 28, 2016, in order to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the nomination. She was the first Congresswoman to endorse Sanders and later gave the nominating speech putting his name forward at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
In March 2016, Gabbard was one of three members of Congress to vote against House resolution 121, which condemned the government of Syria and "other parties to the conflict" for war crimes and crimes against humanity," saying that though Assad is a "brutal dictator," the resolution was "a War Bill—a thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of 'humanitarianism' as a justification for overthrowing the Syrian government". In November 2016 she met with Trump in an effort to convince him of her point of view. In 2017, Gabbard cited US "regime-change" involvement in Syria as a source of the Syrian refugee crisis.
In May 2016 Gabbard, citing a Los Angeles Times investigation into the manufacturer of OxyContin, called drug company marketing of painkillers the “the root cause of the problems”, as they were selling Oxycontin as a 12-hour drug while it wore off early in many patients, increasing the risk of addiction.
In July 2016 Gabbard launched a petition to end the Democratic Party's process of appointing superdelegates in the nomination process. She endorsed Keith Ellison for DNC chair in the 2017 chairmanship elections.
Gabbard was reelected on November 8, 2016, defeating Republican nominee Angela Kaaihue by 170,848 to 39,668 votes (81.2%–18.8%). PACs contributed $465,000 to her 2016 campaign.
On November 21, 2016, Gabbard became the second Democrat (after Michelle Rhee) to meet with President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team at Trump Tower. She described the meeting as "frank and positive" and said she accepted the meeting to influence Trump before Republicans grew in influence and escalated the war to overthrow the Syrian government. She later called the Trump administration's 2017 Shayrat missile strike reckless and "short-sighted."
Along with Senator Hirono, Gabbard introduced a bill to award Filipino and Filipino American veterans who fought in World War II the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill passed Congress and was signed into law by Obama in December 2016.
Gabbard also introduced Talia's Law, to prevent child abuse and neglect on military bases. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in December 2016.
In December 2016, Gabbard, along with approximately 2,000 U.S. military veterans dubbed "The Veterans Stand for Standing Rock," traveled to North Dakota to join the protests against the construction of the final leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Indian Reservations.
In 2017 Gabbard introduced the "Off Fossil Fuels (OFF) Act", which set a target of 2035 for transitioning the United States to renewable energy. It was endorsed by Food and Water Watch.
In January 2017 Gabbard voted against a House resolution condemning the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. She said, "While I remain concerned about aspects of the U.N. resolution, I share the Obama administration's reservation about the harmful impact Israeli settlement activity has on the prospects for peace." She criticized Israel's use of live ammunition along the Gaza fence in May 2018.
In January 2017, Gabbard had an unplanned meeting with Assad during a trip to Syria and Lebanon. She reportedly did not inform House leadership of her trip in advance. Gabbard said in a press release that the House Ethics Committee approved the trip and the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS-Ohio) paid for it. She later paid for the trip with her own money. On February 7, 2017, it was reported that Gabbard had not filed the required disclosure forms by the deadline, but according to her office she complied with House ethics rules by filing her post-trip financial report by the deadline. Remaining forms and her itinerary were submitted the next day. Gabbard said that the Syrian people's message was "powerful and consistent: there is no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS—they are all the same". She described the Syrian conflict as “a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government".
Gabbard has sponsored and cosponsored many cannabis-related bills during her time in Congress. In February 2017 she was the lead Democratic cosponsor of a measure to federally deschedule marijuana. In January 2018 Gabbard signed onto the far-reaching Marijuana Justice Act of 2018 "to remove marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols" from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and withhold federal funds from states that disproportionately enforce cannabis laws. In March 2019 she was the lead sponsor of the H.R.1587, the Marijuana Data Collection Act, which would direct the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of state marijuana legalization marijuana programs "on the economy, public health, criminal justice and employment." She has also supported bills to "shield medical marijuana states from federal interference, legalize industrial hemp, protect banks that service cannabis businesses, provide tax fairness for the cannabis industry, address various aspects of the federal-state marijuana policy gap, and remove roadblocks to research."
In March 2017 Gabbard was one of the few Democratic representatives to vote for the National Rifle Association (NRA)-supported Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, "which would have essentially blocked the Department of Veterans Affairs from notifying the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that a veteran was mentally incompetent after determining they are unable to manage their own finances".
In April 2017, Gabbard expressed skepticism that evidence then available had shown that Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. Following the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, Gabbard called for a U.N. investigation into the attack and prosecution of Assad by the International Criminal Court should he be found responsible. After Trump ordered the 2017 Shayrat missile strike targeting the Syrian airfield believed to be the source of the attack, Gabbard called the strike reckless and was skeptical that Assad was responsible for the attack, which led to sharp criticism from former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean as well as Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden.
In May 2017 Gabbard announced that she had stopped accepting money from the defense industry and from PACs, after having accepted $111,500 in campaign donations from defense industry companies like BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon and $1.3 million in total from PACs up to that point. Her 2018 campaign total from PACs was just over $37,000, almost all coming from labor associations and trade unions.
In September 2017 Gabbard introduced legislation seeking to transition the United States to clean renewable energy. The bill would require electric utilities to transition to 80% renewable energy resources by 2027 and 100% renewable by 2035, while setting similar vehicle emission standards goals and banning hydraulic fracturing.
Gabbard was reelected in 2018, defeating Republican nominee Brian Evans by 153,271 to 44,850 votes (77.4%–22.6%).
In 2018 Gabbard introduced the "Securing America's Election Act", a bill to require all districts to use paper ballots, yielding an auditable paper trail in the event of a recount. Common Cause endorsed the bill. When Attorney General William Barr issued his statement summarizing the Mueller Report which, he asserted, failed to find that members of Trump's 2016 campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government, Gabbard called this "a good thing for America". She subsequently reintroduced her election security bill, arguing that it would make foreign interference less likely in 2020.
The Honolulu Civil Beat wrote in 2018 that Gabbard's gun record was complicated, noting that she now supported "universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and banning military-style assault weapons" but "it hasn’t always been reflected in her actions. She’s been slow to sign on to a number of gun control measures that have received widespread support among her Democratic Party colleagues. Sometimes she’s just a no-show." Gabbard has co-sponsored bills that would ban assault weapons and institute background checks for all gun purchases.
In May 2018 Gabbard, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representatives Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal introduced The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 "to penalize drug companies found to be profiting from the opioid epidemic [targeting] companies that engage in false marketing or distribution of opioids."
In June 2018 Gabbard cosponsored a resolution expressing House sentiment that the drug war had failed and apologizing to “individuals and communities that were victimized by this policy”. She also cosponsored a separate resolution asking states to “repair the most egregious effects of the war on drugs on communities of color, in particular to those who now hold criminal records for a substance that is now legal and regulated.”
On August 7, 2018, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Hawaii Army National Guard had instructed Gabbard that a video of her in uniform on her VoteTulsi Facebook page did not comply with military ethics rules. Gabbard's campaign removed the video and added a disclaimer to the website's banner image of Gabbard in uniform in a veterans' cemetery that the image does not imply an endorsement from the military. A similar situation had happened during a previous Gabbard congressional campaign. A spokeswoman for Gabbard said the campaign would work closely with the Department of Defense to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Gabbard has called for ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, saying the U.S. is complicit in a humanitarian disaster. In September 2018 she supported a legislation invoking the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to stop U.S. involvement in the war.
In mid-2017 Gabbard pledged to no longer accept money from political action committees In October 2018 The Intercept reported that she was one of only four members of Congress who had pledged not to accept corporate campaign donations.
In November 2018 Gabbard spoke in favor of a Green New Deal, which was at the time a draft resolution to task a special House committee with coming up with legislation to eliminate fossil fuel use from the economy within a decade. In February 2019 she expressed concerns about the version of the Green New Deal proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, saying, "I have some concerns with the Green New Deal, and about some of the vagueness of the language in there, so have not co-sponsored the legislation”.
In November 2018, after Trump indicated the U.S. would not sanction Saudi Arabia over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Gabbard tweeted at Trump, "being Saudi Arabia's bitch is not 'America First.'"
According to the Maui Independent, Gabbard has been outspoken against a “broken criminal justice system” and abuse of private prisons that together put “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. This so-called criminal justice system, which favors the rich and powerful and punishes the poor, cannot stand.” In December 2018 she co-sponsored the First Step Act as a "first in a long line of steps toward comprehensive criminal justice reform, … greater sentencing reform, and [to] eradicate the private prison industry.” This law will, among other things, empower prisoners for successful reentry into society, reduce rates of recidivism, and establish a Risk-Reduction System to match inmates to programs best-fitting their needs.
In January 2019 The Intercept published an article claiming Gabbard had links with Hindu nationalist organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and the Hindu American Foundation. In a response, she rebutted claims that she is a "Hindu nationalist", calling it "religious bigotry" and writing, "My meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India's democratically elected leader, have been highlighted as 'proof' of this and portrayed as somehow being out of the ordinary or somehow suspect, even though President Obama, Secretary Clinton, President Trump and many of my colleagues in Congress have met with and worked with him." An earlier version of The Intercept's article searched Gabbard's donor list for "names ... of Hindu origin" to "show Gabbard's broad base of support in the Hindu-American community". Gabbard criticized this as religious bigotry, saying that Christians would not be subject to such scrutiny based on their names. The Intercept removed the sentence with an apology, saying that it was not intended "to question the motives of those political donors" and apologizing "for any such implication".
In a February 2019 interview with Status Coup host Jordan Chariton, Gabbard said, "Through my time on the armed services committee in congress over the last five years I've supported amendments to the defense bill that ban torture, ban these enhanced interrogation techniques, and as president will continue to strongly oppose torture and the use of those techniques".
On February 2, 2019, Gabbard officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign, saying that it was in the "spirit of service above self" that she announced her candidacy. CNN described her foreign policy platform as anti-interventionalist and her economic platform as populist.
In May 2019 Gabbard warned about the danger, costs, and consequences of a potential war with Iran and criticized the Trump administration for elevating tensions. She said it would be illegal for the Trump administration to rely on a 2001 law that authorized the use of U.S. Armed Forces against those responsible for the September 11 attacks and any "associated forces".
At the Democratic debate on July 31, 2019, Gabbard accused Trump of continuing to betray Americans by repeatedly walking back his plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, adding that withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan was about leadership instead of "arbitrary deadlines". Gabbard said she would withdraw troops from Afghanistan during her first year as president and cited the need for the United States "to do the right thing and end the wasteful regime change wars and bring our troops home."
In August 2019, both Scott Ritter, former United Nations weapons inspector, and MIT professor Theodore Postol said that they considered Gabbard's longstanding skepticism concerning the evidence presented of chemical attacks in Douma and Khan Shaykhun to have been a healthy attitude to have. Based on his experience as a pilot, Ritter concluded that the Khan Shaykhun incident "must be viewed as a false flag incident" and supports Gabbard’s assertion "that the attacks may have been staged by opposition forces for the purpose of drawing the United States and the West deeper into the war."
In a 2018 interview with The Nation, Gabbard said the United States had "been waging a regime change war in Syria since 2011. Central to that war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, along with our allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, has been providing direct and indirect support to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda". In an August 2019 interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo , Gabbard said of Assad: "He's a brutal dictator. Just like Saddam Hussein. Just like Gadhafi in Libya. The reason that I'm so outspoken on this issue of ending these wasteful regime-change wars is because I have seen firsthand this high human cost of war and the impact that it has on my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform".