The lawsuit was derided as a “publicity stunt” by Clinton spokespeople.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has dropped her defamation suit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Gabbard, who was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, filed the lawsuit earlier in 2020. She accused Clinton of maliciously suggesting that Gabbard’s campaign was receiving support from the Russian government.
The lawsuit—as LegalReader.com reported in January—centers on comments Clinton made during a televised interview. While Clinton didn’t call out Gabbard by name, she implied that the Hawaii representative was a “Russian asset.”
While Gabbard’s legal team maintains that their case was solid, they have opted to drop the complaint in light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“Plaintiffs Tulsi Gabbard and Tulsi Now, Inc., dismiss this action,” wrote Gabbard attorneys Dan Terzian and Janice Roven in a court filing. “While they remain certain of the action’s legal merit, they are just as certain that this new COVID and post-COVID world require them to focus their time and attention to other priorities, including defeating Donald Trump in 2020, rather than righting the wrongs here.”
The lawsuit had sought damages “estimated to exceed $50 million.”
According to The Hill, Gabbard believed she was targeted for her support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary.
Clinton, however, maintains that she never did anything wrong.
“This was a publicity stunt through and through, and this filing makes that clear,” said Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill.
The Hill similarly suggests that Gabbard’s lawsuit was “an attempt to gin up attention for her struggling White House bid” in the prelude to the Iowa caucuses. Gabbard, though, never gathered sufficient support to compete with the race’s then-frontrunners, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.
One way or another, legal experts told CNN they did not believe the lawsuit would have succeeded even if the case had moved to court.
“Under settled Supreme Court precedent, a defamation claim by a public figure like Tulsi Gabbard requires proof on her part that the speaker not only said something that was false, but did so ‘with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not,’” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN contributor and University of Texas School of Law professor. “That’s an incredibly high standard to meet, and rightly so.”
Gabbard, adds CNN, has since endorsed Biden for the presidency.
“I know Vice President Biden and his wife and am grateful to have called his son Beau, who also served in the National Guard, a friend,” Gabbard said in a statement. “Although I may not agree with the Vice President on every issue, I know that he has a good heart and is motivated by his love for our country and the American people.”