Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) responded to a statement by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) accusing her of “treasonous lies” over possible U.S.-funded bio labs in Ukraine.
Though President Joe Biden and senior officials have denied any involvement with biological research in Ukraine, some have remained skeptical.
Gabbard has long been a staunch opponent of allowing the United States to become entangled in foreign conflicts. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Gabbard has staked out a position against U.S. military involvement, an attitude shared by several libertarian and populist organizations and commentators.
In a Twitter thread posted over the weekend, Gabbard said that the United States had funded several bio labs in Ukraine.
“I’m not convinced there are biological weapons labs or biological weapons in Ukraine—that’s not what I’m concerned about,” Gabbard wrote. “I’m concerned about the existence of the 25+ biological labs in that warzone.”
Because the official government position is that these labs do not exist, Gabbard’s comments drew backlash from Romney, who has long espoused a far more interventionist foreign policy.
“Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda,” Romney said in a Twitter post. “Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.”
On Monday Gabbard appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, where she responded to Romney’s accusations of treason.
“What would be your response to Mitt Romney?” Carlson asked Gabbard.
“This is not a matter of disagreement or holding a dissenting view—this is about facts and this is about the truth,” Gabbard said. “While all these talking heads [in Congress and in the media] are regurgitating Hillary Clinton’s slanderous talking points, the facts remain.”
Gabbard said that she has been accused of saying that the United States has bioweapons labs in Ukraine, but she denied the allegation as a misrepresentation.
“I have said no such thing, at any point. I have said that there are bio labs in Ukraine that have received U.S. support, that contain dangerous pathogens, that if those labs are breached then we in the world are facing a potential future of pandemics.”
“I think it’s important to recognize that facts exist, especially in this case, and the truth is the first casualty of war,” said Gabbard. “And so this is exactly what we are seeing here: people [who] have a very specific agenda [are] refusing to recognize the truth, refusing to have a conversation and instead immediately resorting to their age-old tactic of silence, smear, and destroy the character and reputation of anyone who dares to say anything that they don’t like.”
“Senator Romney, please provide evidence that what I said is untrue and treasonous,” Gabbard wrote. “If you cannot, you should do the honorable thing: apologize and resign from the Senate.”
In addition, Gabbard said, members of Congress and officials in the Biden Administration have denied the mere existence of these labs, despite a “plethora of evidence” to the contrary.
“The Russian accusations are absurd, they are laughable and you know, in the words of my Irish Catholic grandfather, a bunch of malarkey,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on March 9 of the claim that the U.S. funded bio labs in the region. “There’s nothing to it. It’s classic Russian propaganda.”
However, during a March 8 Senate hearing Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland admitted to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that the labs did exist, saying that the United States was “quite concerned” that the facilities’ dangerous contents could fall into the hands of the Russians.
“Ukraine has biological research facilities which in fact we are now quite concerned Russian troops—Russian forces—may be seeking to gain control of.”
A 2010 document by the USAF Counterproliferation Center in Alabama indicated that the United States at that time had long provided funding for these facilities (pdf).
“U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar applauded the opening of the Interim Central Reference Laboratory in Odessa, Ukraine, this week, announcing that it will be instrumental in researching dangerous pathogens used by bioterrorists,” the release said of the level-3 bio-safety lab.
Lugar was quoted in the document saying, “The continuing cooperation of Nunn-Lugar partners has improved safety for all people against weapons of mass destruction and potential terrorist use, in addition to advancements in the prevention of pandemics and public health consequences.”
However, these labs have existed for much longer. According to an archived Nunn-Lugar report from August 2005, the United States that year signed a research agreement with Ukraine “to counter the threat of bioterrorism and to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons, technology, materials, and expertise” (pdf).
The report said the “initiative includes a provision for a modern, safe and secure diagnostic health laboratory and a national network of epidemiological monitoring stations equipped to rapidly detect, diagnose, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks throughout Ukraine, whether naturally occurring or as a result of bioterrorism. Such cooperation is ongoing with Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.”
In an earlier appearance on Carlson’s show, Gabbard said that despite abundant evidence proving the existence of these labs, Biden officials have been “playing the blame game” rather than taking responsibility for the facilities’ existence.
That “is not what a responsible leader would do,” Gabbard said.
The Epoch Times reached out to Romney and Gabbard for comment but has not received a response at the time of publishing.