Former leader of the Klu Klux Klan and Louisiana state senator David Duke endorsed Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard in her bid for president in 2020.
Duke changed the main image of his Twitter account to express his support, writing, "Finally a candidate who will actually put America First rather than Israel First!"
The 37-year-old Iraq War veteran is the first Hindu elected to Congress and the first member born in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. She has visited early primary and caucus states New Hampshire and Iowa in recent months and has written a memoir that’s due to be published in May.
Gabbard quickly rejected the endorsement. “I have strongly denounced David Duke’s hateful views and his so-called ‘support’ multiple times in the past, and reject his support,” Gabbard said in a statement to The Hill newspaper.
Gabbard’s run will not be without controversy. She came under fire on Sunday for past remarks she made that many view as homophobic.
- Tea With Assad, Hugs With Adelson: Tulsi Gabbard's Unique Views on Israel and the Middle East
- New Gay Purge in Chechnya Kills at Least Two, Forty Detained: Report
In 2004, Gabbard was quoted as saying, “To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii.”
Speaking in opposition of the civil union bill in the Hawaii legislature, she added, “As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
When Gabbard ran for Congress in 2012, she apologized to gay activists for her past views:
“I want to apologize for statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community,” she said. “I know that those comments have been hurtful and I sincerely offer my apology to you and hope that you will accept it.”
CNN's KFILE reported Sunday that in the early 2000s Gabbard touted working for her father's anti-gay organization, which promoted gay conversion therapy and fought against gay marriage in the state.
In 2016, she alarmed fellow Democrats when she met with Donald Trump during his transition to president and later when she took a secret trip to Syria and met with President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes and genocide. She questioned whether he was responsible for a chemical attack on civilians that killed dozens and led the U.S. to attack a Syrian air base.