Tulsi Gabbard Demands Romney Resign After Calling Her a 'Treasonous Liar'

Former congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has responded to criticism after being accused of lending credibility to Russian accusations that the U.S. funded biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. In fact, Gabbard cited evidence that the U.S. funds bio labs in Ukraine, not biological weapons labs.

Claims that the United States is funding Ukrainian laboratories developing biological and chemical weapons have been connected to Russian propaganda outlets. The unsubstantiated allegations are often repeated by Russian government officials.

The U.S. has dismissed accusations of working on bio weapons in Ukraine, but has said it has been working with Ukraine since 2005 to research deadly pathogens as part of the Pentagon's Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP).

In a Monday morning tweet, Gabbard responded to a Sunday remark from Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who called her statements calling for all U.S.-funded labs to be shut down as "treasonous lies" that could "cost lives."

In a series of posts, Gabbard said that Romney should provide proof that there are no U.S. funded biolabs in Ukraine. She also said that if he can't do so, he should "apologize and resign from the Senate."

"So, Senator Romney, you have a choice: out of pride, continue to deny the truth or admit you are wrong, apologize, and resign," Gabbard said, in concluding the thread. "Aloha. And remember that without the truth, we can be neither safe nor free."

Newsweek reached out to Romney's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Gabbard did not accuse the U.S. of funding bio weapons labs in Ukraine in the Fox News interview that drew criticism. She said that "if there were" such labs they would violate the Biological Weapons Convention.

Both in the Fox News interview and on Twitter she condemned U.S. support for bio labs researching pathogens in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world and said they should be shut down.

Gabbard's detractors said her comments gave credence to the Russian accusations of U.S. support for bio weapons research in Ukraine - one of Moscow's justifications for the invasion.

Moscow has used the claim that the United States supports biological weapons research in Ukraine as one of the justifications for the Ukraine invasion. The claim has also gained traction among conspiracy theorists and has been repeated by Chinese officials in recent weeks. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Russia may use those claims to justify its own biological or chemical weapon attack by saying America's actions made it necessary.

Similar claims from Russian authorities that the U.S. uses or studies chemical and biological weapons date back decades to the Cold War and have reappeared in recent years as the U.S. and Russia have become involved in other international conflicts, like the civil war in Syria.

In June 2018, the Russian government issued a preemptive statement accusing the U.S. of planning a chemical attack in Syria, and a similar attack was later carried out by Russia-backed Syrian forces. Months earlier, the Russian government also accused the U.S. and other countries of staging a chemical attack by the Syrian military to justify a series of airstrikes that took place weeks later.

The theory that dangerous American-funded labs exist in Ukraine has also become associated with the QAnon conspiracy theorists, who have said without evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin is invading Ukraine with the support of former President Donald Trump to destroy labs that are linked to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, became a popular target among conspiracy theorists throughout the coronavirus pandemic, as people resisted protective measures like masks, lockdowns and vaccines.

U.S. officials have described the conspiracy theories as "laughable" and an attempt from Russia to justify its "own horrific actions" in Ukraine.

But the U.S said it has been working with Ukraine on pathogens as part of the threat response program, which among other things helped with addressing COVID-19.

According to a fact sheet released by the Defense Department, the work is similar to that in other countries. It said the U.S. has invested $200 million in Ukraine since 2005 to support 46 Ukrainian laboratories and their research into disease threats.

In February, fact-checking website Snopes released a report debunking the Ukrainian biolab theory, saying no such labs exist.

Correction 03/14/22, 3:40 p.m. ET: The story has been edited to clarify that former Representative Gabbard did not say that there are U.S.-funded bio weapons labs in Ukraine, and to include additional context. Newsweek regrets the error.

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Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has responded to criticism of her unsubstantiated claims about U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine. Above, Gabbard during a TV interview at the U.S. Capitol on January 9, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty Images