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Why Tulsi Gabbard sent Mitt Romney a cease-and-desist letter

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Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Then-Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. Gabbard recently sent a letter to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney demanding he delete a tweet about her.

Meg Kinnard, Associated Press

Former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is demanding Sen. Mitt Romney take down a March tweet in which he alleged she was “parroting false Russian propaganda” and that her statements were “treasonous lies.”

Gabbard, a Democrat who ran for president in 2020, recently sent the Utah Republican and former television personality Keith Olbermann cease-and-desist letters over their statements “asserting that Gabbard was parroting false Russian propaganda.”

“Her treasonous lies may well cost lives,” Romney said.

Gabbard said last week on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that Romney’s and Olbermann’s statements create a chilling effect where people are afraid to express their views.

“When powerful and influential people basically threaten and intimidate people into silence as Mitt Romney, Keith Olbermann and others are doing, they’re hoping to achieve that effect, that if anybody dares speak out against the government, that if anybody dares to criticize whatever the permanent Washington establishment’s narrative is that you’ll be smeared as a treasonous traitor,” Gabbard said.

Romney’s office declined to comment on the matter Monday.

As Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Gabbard tweeted, “This war and suffering could have easily been avoided if Biden Admin/NATO had simply acknowledged Russia’s legitimate security concerns regarding Ukraine’s becoming a member of NATO, which would mean US/NATO forces right on Russia’s border.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference — typically hostile territory for Democrats — Gabbard called leaders of her party “hypocrites.”

“They proclaim that we must go to war to spread democracy and freedom while they actively work to undermine our democratic republic and our freedoms right here at home,” she said.

Romney’s tweet came after clips of an interview Gabbard did with Carlson in March were broadcast on Russian state TV. Gabbard said she was “deeply concerned” about claims of biolabs in Ukraine. She also posted a video to Twitter claiming there were more than 25 “US-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release & spread deadly pathogens.”

While Romney did not specify what comments from Gabbard he was responding to, it appears they were aimed at her unsubstantiated claims about the biolabs.

Carlson and other conservatives have spread a conspiracy theory that the Biden administration was funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, but there is no evidence to support the assertions, according to The New York Times.

On Fox last week, Carlson took a shot at the Utah senator during the interview saying, “Mitt Romney famously dodged the war in Vietnam. He’s a coward,” before asking Gabbard, who is an Army Reserve officer, whether others in the military she has served with found her comments treasonous.

Gabbard said “not a single person I know ... I am confident in saying that they would not agree with his accusations.”

Romney received a deferment from the draft on religious grounds and spent some of the Vietnam War years as a missionary in France for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Gabbard’s letters demand that both Romney and Olbermann “cease these false, defamatory, and malicious claims” and that they “retract/takedown all such statements made about Gabbard and destroy all copies of those statements,” The Hill reported.

Gabbard’s attorneys added that both Romney and Olbermann have until April 27 to confirm that they will comply with these demands, and to indicate whether they will enter into a settlement.