Representative Tulsi Gabbard today filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton in federal court.
The basis for the suit is a comment Clinton made to the former Obama-campaign manager David Plouffe in an October 2019 podcast. Clinton suggested that Republicans were grooming an unnamed person as a third-party candidate. She added:
She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset.
Gabbard claims that the “she” in the above paragraph refers to herself, and not to Jill Stein.
It’s hard to take seriously Gabbard’s feelings of affront. Gabbard is herself one of the most vituperative people in U.S. politics. She replied to the Plouffe podcast with a multipart tweet that opened: “Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic party.” Her lawsuit brims with rhetoric far more malignant than anything Clinton said about that unnamed person to David Plouffe.
It’s even harder to take seriously the legal merits of Gabbard’s lawsuit. Gabbard is a public figure. To win a defamation suit, she would have to, first, prove that Clinton’s comment referred to her, then prove that Clinton’s statement was both false and malicious: that Clinton knew it to be false, or else recklessly disregarded its falsity. The case seems unlikely to survive half a minute in legal proceedings.