Who is Tulsi Gabbard? It’s Complicated

The Hawai‘i U.S. Representative Officially Starts Her Presidential Campaign With an Aloha Launch in Waikīkī.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard plans to launch her bid to succeed Donald Trump as president from the great lawn of the Hilton Hawaiian Village at 3 p.m. Hawai‘i time Saturday, Feb. 2, with contemporary Island music and—if the weather cooperates—iconic Waikīkī Beach glistening in the background.


Photo: Courtesy of Office of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard


The 37-year-old politician has received lots of national media attention since she was elected to Congress in 2012. Poised, well-spoken and popular, Gabbard also regularly turns down Hawai‘i media interview requests that involve topics that veer from the messages she wants to convey.  And she declined to debate her opponents in last year's electionThe glare of a presidential run has prompted increased scrutiny of every aspect of her life.


SEE ALSO: Did Tulsi Gabbard’s National Ambitions Just Suffer a Political Hit?


Let’s take a quick look at her bio and some controversies over the years:

  • Tulsi Gabbard was born in American Samoa, the daughter of current Hawai‘i state Sen. Mike Gabbard and Carol Porter Gabbard, who formerly served on the state Board of Education. Her family moved to Hawai‘i when she was 2. She was primarily homeschooled by her parents except for two years in the Philippines.

  • She is proud to point out that she is the first Samoan-American member of Congress and first Hindu member.  But she has often deflected questions about the influence of Chris Butler, also known as Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa. Butler, who grew up on O‘ahu, is the leader of an offshoot organization of the Hare Krishna movement called by several names including the Science of Identity Foundation, and had been a close associate of Mike Gabbard and other politicians since the 1970s. Mike Gabbard says he is Catholic while acknowledging knowing Butler. Carol Gabbard served as secretary/treasurer of the Science of Identify Foundation until 2000 and identifies Hindu as her religion.

  • In 2002, Tulsi Gabbard ran for the state House at the age of 21 and won, becoming the youngest legislator elected in Hawai‘i history and youngest woman elected to a U.S. state legislature.

  • In 2003, she enlisted in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard. She volunteered to serve in a war zone in Iraq and then a second tour to the Middle East. She continues to serve as a major in the Army National Guard.

  • In 2004, her father, Mike Gabbard, who was a Honolulu City Councilmember running for Congress, was dogged by his anti-homosexual advocacy of the 1990s. When HONOLULU Magazine asked Mike Gabbard in an email to clarify his former relationship with Butler’s group, daughter Tulsi, a state representative, then married to her first husband sent the magazine an angry e-mail in response. “I smell a skunk,” she wrote. “It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case.”

  • Tulsi Gabbard had shared her father’s strongly anti-homosexual views but in 2012 she said that her Middle East tours had changed her opinion, and began to support same-sex marriage. Since announcing her presidential campaign in January, she has appeared in an apology video.

  • In 2016, she rankled some Democrats when she broke away from other Hawai‘i Democratic leaders supporting Hillary Clinton to back Sen. Bernie Sanders.

  • In January 2017, she drew controversy for traveling to Syria and meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. She later repaid a pro-Assad group for her travel expenses after questions were raised.

  • In November, Gabbard, known for a temperate public voice, sent a tweet to President Donald Trump critical of his continued support of Saudi Arabia. “Being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’”


Those who wish to learn more about the Tulsi 2020 campaign can RSVP at the campaign website Tulsi2020.com or watch a live stream of the event.