'Actual Russian propaganda': Conservatives pile on as Tulsi Gabbard named 'most influential' spreader of disinformation
Republicans are attacking former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for spreading "Russian propaganda" after she posted a video claiming that the U.S. is funding and operating bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
On Sunday, the Hawaii Democrat published a two-minute video laying out the completely unproven conspiracy theory that the U.S. is funding between 25 and 30 biolabs in Ukraine to develop "dangerous pathogens".
"Like COVID, these pathogens know no borders," Gabbard said. "If they are inadvertently or purposely breached or compromised, they will quickly spread all throughout Europe, the United States and the rest of the world, causing untold suffering and death."
There are 25+ US-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens to US/world. We must take action now to prevent disaster. US/Russia/Ukraine/NATO/UN/EU must implement a ceasefire now around these labs until they\u2019re secured & pathogens destroyedpic.twitter.com/dhDTH5smIG— Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a (@Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a) 1647168785
Those comments did not sit well with many Republicans, some of whom accused the former lawmaker of playing into the hands of Kremlin-backed disinformation.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., called Gabbard's remarks "actual Russian propaganda." "Traitorous. Russia also said the Luger center in Georgia was making zombies," he said on Sunday. "Tulsi should go to Russia."
Actual Russian propaganda. Traitorous. Russia also said the Luger center in Georgia was making zombies. Tulsi should go to Russiahttps://twitter.com/tulsigabbard/status/1502960938147729413\u00a0\u2026— Adam Kinzinger (@Adam Kinzinger) 1647221078
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, expressed similar thoughts, accusing Gabbard of "parroting false Russian propaganda."
"Her treasonous lies may well cost lives," he wrote on Sunday over Twitter.
Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.— Mitt Romney (@Mitt Romney) 1647205153
On Monday, Alyssa Farah, the former director of strategic communications under Donald Trump, said that Romney was "absolutely right."
"What this is, is the Russians are spreading propaganda to try to create a pretext for potentially using chemical weapons against the Ukranians," Farah said during a segment of ABC's "The View."
RUSSIA USING TUCKER CARLSON IN PROPAGANDA? After a leaked Kremlin war memo reportedly instructed Russian state media to play Tucker Carlson clips and Tulsi Gabbard is being accused of spreading Russian false flag propaganda, #TheView panel reacts. http://abcn.ws/2RiH3wd\u00a0pic.twitter.com/yzbQBrpmbT— The View (@The View) 1647273902
"What Tulsi Gabbard is spreading is actually helping Putin get away with criminal acts against innocent Ukrainian civilians," she added.
The U.S. has repeatedly dismissed claims that it is holding or developing bioweapons in Ukraine. However, there are a number of biological labs in Ukraine, which the U.S. funds, to prevent the deployment of bioweapons, according to The New York Times. The funding of those labs stems from the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), founded in 1998. In 2005, the U.S. and Ukraine signed an explicit agreement ensuring that the labs would not be used to develop bioweapons.
Back in 2018, Filippa Lentzos, a Norwegian scientist researching threats posed by biological agents, called the Kremlin's claims "unfounded" after visiting a number of Ukrainian biolabs herself.
"We were given access to all areas of the site, examined relevant documentation, and interviewed staff, and concluded that the Center demonstrates significant transparency," Lentzos said. "Our group observed nothing out of the ordinary, or that we wouldn't expect to see in a legitimate facility of this sort."
Gabbard has since scrambled to explain her tweet and called on Romney to resign.
.@MittRomney and others say that I'm treasonous because I called for a ceasefire around the 25+ biolabs in Ukraine to prevent the breach of such facilities & escape of pathogens, and prevent more pandemics. Romney should resign.pic.twitter.com/nNhmM74xo1— Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a (@Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a) 1647291690
Suggesting that there might have been some "miscommunication and misunderstanding" about the terms bio labs and bio weapons labs, Gabbard tweeted: "'Biolabs' are facilities which contain and experiment with dangerous pathogens, ostensibly for the purpose of serving the public good (i.e. vaccines, etc.). 'Biological weapons labs' are facilities which exist for the purpose of turning pathogens into weapons so they can be used against an enemy (i.e. 'bioweapons')," Gabbard tweeted.
(1/4) I'm not convinced there are biological weapons labs or biological weapons in Ukraine\u2014that's not what I'm concerned about. I'm concerned about the existence of the 25+ biological labs in that warzone. As i said 2 days ago:https://twitter.com/TulsiGabbard/status/1502960938147729413\u00a0\u2026— Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a (@Tulsi Gabbard \ud83c\udf3a) 1647316260
On Wednesday, Gabbard was listed alongside GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA and Fox News' Carlson as the "most influential" in spreading anti-Ukraine disinformation and misinformation. Disinformation and digital authoritarianism researcher Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East studies and digital humanities at Hamad bin Khalifa University, featured Gabbard's tweets about Ukraine and "biolabs" as the latest Russia conspiracy theory propagated by right-wing media in the U.S.
2/ See clusters 1, 2 & 3. Cluster 1 is mostly people criticising the biolabs conspiracy, or the absurdity of it. Cluster 2 are generally those that can be considered active in the spread of propaganda or misinformation. Cluster 3 is a French NWO type spreading Russian propagandapic.twitter.com/VVschFqaGQ— Marc Owen Jones (@Marc Owen Jones) 1647434919
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