12:47 GMT +318 January 2019
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    In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, greets supporters in Honolulu. Gabbard has announced she’s running for president in 2020

    Controversial Dem. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Announces 2020 Run

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    The Tulsi-for-President website says "aloha" to the 2020 White House run, but the unorthodox democrat's candidacy has stirred a hot debate on social media, particularly over her opposition to LGBT rights in the past and a 2017 meeting with Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

    Tulsi Gabbard, the Iraq war veteran and Democratic US representative for Hawaii, has decided to run for the White House in the next election.

    "I have decided to run [for president] and will be making a formal announcement within the next week," she told CNN's Van Jones.

    Gabbard, 37, who stepped down as DNC vice chair in 2016 to support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party primaries, has drawn flak from her side of the aisle, largely over her stance on gay rights and the US involvement in Syria.

    In January 2017, the lawmaker made an unannounced "fact-finding" trip to Syria and had a sit-down with President Bashar al-Assad. "When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so", she said, "because I felt it's important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we've got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that's exactly what we talked about."

    She was condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike, as the prevailing narrative in the US is that the Syrian president is a war criminal because he purportedly used chemical weapons against civilians.

    Damascus and Moscow, meanwhile, say the attack was staged, with the help of the UK, by White Helmets, an NGO which is also accused of helping extremists and filming fake rescue operations in Syria.

    Commenters scrambled to call Gabbard, who had spoken out against condemning Assad for his alleged war crimes, on her reconciliatory attitude toward him.

    According to Politico contributor Marc Caputo, the Republican National Committee has dubbed Gabbard Assad's "mouthpiece" in Washington in an internal memo.

    Left-leaning political journalist Bill Palmer, for his part, branded the congresswoman a "right-wing lunatic" and a "Trump pal", while artist-turned-writer Molly Crabapple accused her of "pro-bombing" positions.

    Another issue that has done a disservice to Tulsi Gabbard among left-wing voters is her prior stance on gay marriages. "As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists," Gabbard was quoted as saying. She is said to have supported in 2014 a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide, but later reversed her opinion and applauded a Supreme Court decision to legalise gay marriage across the US.

    However, Gabbard's flipping on LGBT issues has not impressed some social media users.

    Incidentally, some people have leapt to her defence, praising her for endorsing Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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    presidential run, candidacy, same-sex marriage, election, DNC, Tulsi Gabbard, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, United States, Hawaii
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