South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared to have a difficult time Sunday saying definitively whether or not Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was a Russian asset.
Buttigieg, after pointedly challenging Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for failing to answer a yes or no question at last week’s debate, gave a rather lengthy reply to a yes or no question from CNN’s Jake Tapper during an appearance on “State of the Union.”
Tapper began the segment by playing a clip of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who argued that Gabbard was “being groomed” by the Russians to be a third party candidate in an effort to undermine the eventual Democratic nominee. (RELATED: Gabbard Strikes Back As Biden And Buttigieg Fudge Facts To Blame Trump For Escalation In Syria)
“Gabbard called her the Queen of warmongers and you don’t want to get into the middle of it but is it helpful to have a nominee suggesting that a congresswoman is a Russian asset?” Tapper asked.
Buttigieg immediately sidestepped, saying, “I would prefer the conversation about policy and what we’re going to do and how American lives will be different. When it comes to any of my Democratic competitors, that is my focus.”
“Right. But do you think Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset?” Tapper pressed again, asking directly.
“I don’t know what the basis is for that,” Buttigieg sidestepped again. “But I consider her to be a competitor. I respect her service and have very different views than she does on foreign policy and I would prefer to have that argument in terms of debates and going forward.”
Tapper pushed back, asking why Democrats defended people when Trump smeared them but didn’t seem motivated to defend Gabbard from similar attacks from other Democrats, no matter how wild. “So when Trump smears people, Democrats stand up and say, ‘You’re smearing someone stop it.’ Why don’t Democrats do it to say that about Tulsi Gabbard? It seems like an obvious smear. I don’t see any evidence she’s a Russian asset. That seems like a wild accusation,” he added.
“I think statements like that ought to be backed by evidence and our focus needs to be on the things undermining America,” Buttigieg responded, sidestepping the the question once again. “Right now we are being told to, quote, get over it when it comes to the mixing of domestic politics and foreign affairs and the big issue today is not whether this is happening. It is clear that it is happening even Republicans are being forced to admit that it is happening. The question is will we or will we not get over it.”
Tapper clearly noticed the evasion, ending the interview by saying, “An agile pivot from mayor Pete Buttigieg.”