Pete Buttigieg Criticizes Hillary Clinton's Attack on Tulsi Gabbard: Her Claims Should Be 'Backed by Evidence'

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Sunday criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for implying that his fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is a "Russian asset" without evidence.

Clinton made the remarks about Gabbard, a military veteran and Hawaii congresswoman, last week in a podcast appearance with former Obama aide David Plouffe, where she discussed possible Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election.

"They're also going to do third party again, and I'm not making any predictions but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate," the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said. "She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far."

Buttigieg managed to dodge several questions on various Sunday talk shows asking him to comment on Clinton's remarks. However, on CNN's State of the Union, he criticized Clinton for failing to produce evidence to back up her claims. "Statements like that ought to be backed by evidence," Buttigieg said. "I don't know what the basis is for that. I consider [Gabbard] a competitor. I respect her service... I would prefer we had arguments in terms of policy."

Gabbard responded to Clinton's insinuation on Friday afternoon in a series of harsh tweets, where she called the former secretary of state "the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long."

Nick Merrill, a spokesperson for Clinton, fired back at Gabbard in a statement to CNN. "Divisive language filled with vitriol and conspiracy theories?" he said. "Can't imagine a better proof point than this." When asked whether Clinton's remarks were aimed at Gabbard, Merrill responded: "If the nesting doll fits."

On Sunday, Gabbard condemned Clinton and her "gang of rich [and] powerful elites[s]" in a video posted to Twitter, where she also called for an end to what she considers rampant corruption in the Democratic Party.

"People warned me in 2016 that my endorsement of Bernie Sanders would be the end of my 'political career,'" she said in the two-minute-long clip. "They said, 'Clinton will never forget. That she and her rich and powerful friends, her allies in politics and the media will make sure that you are destroyed.'"

"Well there have been countless hit pieces full of smears against me from day one of this campaign," Gabbard added. "Here is the truth. They will not intimidate us. They will not silence us."

Clinton's original allegations came after NBC News and The New York Times released analysis articles showing that Russian news sites and social media accounts with ties to the Kremlin had been supporting Gabbard for president in the lead up to her announcement to run in 2020.

Pete Buttigieg
South Bend Mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Democratic Polk County Steak Fry on September 21, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Buttigieg on Sunday criticized Hillary Clinton's recent attacks on 2020 candidate Tulsi Gabbard, saying her claims should be "backed by evidence." Joshua Lott/Getty