Twitter deemed presidential hopeful Kamala Harris utterly “destroyed,” after fellow candidate Tulsi Gabbard landed dizzying verbal haymakers on the former California prosecutor. Naturally, ‘Russian bots’ were swiftly blamed.
Wednesday night’s Democratic debate was not an enjoyable one for Harris, who went into the faceoff as a darling of the media and among the frontrunners for her party’s nomination. On the stage in Detroit, Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard grilled Harris on her record as California’s attorney general.
In under a minute, Gabbard shredded Harris to pieces for jailing more than 1,500 nonviolent marijuana offenders while admitting in a radio interview that she had smoked marijuana in college, and for her “tough-on-crime” stances. “She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row… she kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor… and she fought to keep the cash bail system in place,” Gabbard continued, leaving Harris unable to counter.
By Thursday morning, “#KamalaHarrisDestroyed” was trending on Twitter in the US.
Of course, any attack on an establishment Democrat is met with an equal and opposite reaction. Establishment pundits and their supporters responded with a familiar cry: “Russia!” Gabbard, they said, is propped up by Vladimir Putin, and #KamalaHarrisDestroyed is the work of “Putin’s bots and paid for shills.”
Even Harris’ press secretary, Ian Sams, labeled Gabbard’s supporters part of “the Russian propaganda machine.”
It’s worth noting that nobody shouting “Russian bots” did any data analysis to support their claims. Few noted too that, during the debate, ‘Tulsi Gabbard’ was the most searched for politician in every single US state, according to Google Trends.
But if the nefarious hashtag wasn’t the work of the Kremlin, then it must have been the work of the MAGA-hatted deplorables, some #resistance commenters argued.
That opponents would default to Russia to attack Gabbard is unsurprising. Running on an anti-interventionist, foreign-policy-focused platform, Gabbard has been accused of cosying up to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad for her opposition to military action in Syria and for meeting with Assad in Damascus. That stance alone led to accusations that she was more closely aligned with the position of the Kremlin than that of the White House.
At present, Gabbard is a long-shot candidate, and is polling at around one percent.