Since dropping out of the 2020 presidential race, where has Tulsi Gabbard been? The veteran has continued to work on issues important to her, from the coronavirus response to sexual harassment in the military.
Kai Kahele, a state senator from Hawaii, easily won a Democratic primary for the congressional seat the she vacated in pursuit of in the presidency; he is now favored to win the state’s deep-blue 2nd congressional district.
Meanwhile, Gabbard has been busy, posting support for UFC fighter and Hawaii native Max Holloway, engaging in a very public fight with 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, tweeting about yoga and celebrating the Supreme Court decision which shut down the Dakota Access pipeline disrupting Native Americans’ lives and resources.
However, her social media feed also reflects that she has also continued to do her work as a congresswoman, encouraging Hawaii’s residents to wear masks, raising awareness about the murder of Vanessa Guillen and working to pass police reform.
Gabbard Has Been A Big Supporter Of Mask Wearing & Critical Of Her State’s Contact Tracing Capacity
Gabbard has encouraged Hawaiian residents to wear masks, which the CDC has said, can prevent coronavirus infections from spreading:
Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a mask will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.
In one tweet, she retweeted an article featuring the state’s Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson who was urging people to follow the CDC guidelines. Anderson, the Associated Press reported, said that coronavirus clusters in the state, such as nine people who tested positive for the disease after attending a large indoor gym class, were being traced back to people failing to wear masks or social distance properly.
Gabbard has tweeted other articles about wearing face masks, such as one featuring the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, who said the pandemic could be controlled if everyone wore masks for four to eight weeks.
Gabbard has also recently criticized the state’s Health Department leaders because of what she alleged was a refusal to “fully staff and deploy contact tracing teams.”
“Obviously, seeing the level of infections of coronavirus in Hawaii continuing to shoot through the roof on a day-to-day basis begs the question about whether or not the department of health is doing enough in deploying these contact tracers. When you look at the national standard for how many contact tracers we should have given our population and our rate of infection right now, we should have at least 560 contact tracers working full time,” she told an anchorwoman for KGMB News.
Hawaii Public Radio reported that with current staffing levels at 79 and reserve staff at 229, Hawaii has enough reserve staff to meet the need of 20 per 100,000 residents, according to a George Washington University estimate; with 79 deployed, it does not, however.
Gabbard Has Advocated On Behalf Of Vanessa Guillen’s Family
On July 1, Gabbard stood with the family of Guillen to highlight her support for the Military Justice Improvement Act and similar bills that would allow victims of abuse and harassment the opportunity to report the instances without fear of retaliation. Gabbard also admonished the military for failing to disclose the details of the sexual harassment allegations, according to a transcript of her comments:
I stand with the Guillen family in calling for Congressional oversight to find out exactly what happened to her. The fact that over 60 days have gone by and still there’s been no disclosure of the internal investigation of her sexual harassment charges is absolutely unacceptable. We need to know why she did not get the help she needed when she needed it and why this family is forced to grieve and mourn her loss here today.
According to what Attorney Natalie Khawam told ABC-7, Guillen had told family members that she was the victim of two instances of sexual harassment, but didn’t report them because she was afraid of retaliation. Khawam said Guillen had said in one instance, a superior had walked in on Guillen showering and in another instance, someone made vulgar remarks to her in Spanish.
In a press conference, Guillen family’s attorney Natalie Khawam said they believe fellow soldier Aaron Robinson sexually harassed Guillen and walked in on her showering, KVUE reported. Robinson had fled his Fort Hood post, KXXV reported, and committed suicide when he realized that officials were trying to speak to him about Guillen’s disappearance. Robinson’s girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, confessed to helping murder and dismember Guillen with Robinson in a criminal complaint. (For more details on her confession, read here).
Ryan McCarthy, an Army secretary who recently announced that the Army’s “Project Inclusion” initiative would focus on educating soldiers about harassment, sexual assault and suicide among other topics, admitted to NBC News that the military failed to protect her, telling reporters, “Vanessa was our teammate, and we let her down. We let her family down.”
Gabbard Has Worked To Pass Legislative Police Reform But Stops Short of Supporting The Defunding Of Police
Gabbard has sent tweets supporting police reform bills, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the house and was sent to the Senate. Of the bill, Gabbard released a statement, in which she said, “This bill brings us one step closer to necessary law enforcement reforms that better serve our communities. But this is only the beginning. There are deeper changes that must be made to ensure our nation’s leaders and those entrusted with protecting the lives of others truly embody the aloha spirit — respect and care for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or anything else.”
Her reaction to the George Floyd incident followed many other politicians. She streamed part of George Floyd’s memorial on YouTube and in a Facebook post, she wrote “Watching George Floyd’s death was sickening and heartbreaking. There is no excuse. These officers must be more than just fired – George and his family deserve JUSTICE. This is not an isolated incident. We as a nation must take action to bring systemic change.” under an image with former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck with the caption “please, I can’t breathe”:
However, Gabbard has not taken up calls to support the defunding of police. In a tweet, she said, “Calls to defund the police will undermine serious efforts to bring about the true and lasting change we need.”