Sen. Kamala Harris dismissed attacks from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, accusing the Hawaii congresswoman of being an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Harris said as a “top-tier candidate,” she expected she “might take hits” from other candidates on the debate stage, when asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about Gabbard’s attacks on her record as a prosecutor.
“Especially when people are at zero or 1% or whatever (Gabbard) might be at,” Harris added.
The senator said Gabbard has “embraced” Assad – “who has murdered the people of his country like cockroaches” – by refusing to call him a war criminal.
“I can only take what she says and her opinion so seriously,” Harris said, adding, “I’m prepared to move on.”
The exchange came on the second night of the CNN presidential debate held in Detroit. Gabbard said on stage she is “deeply concerned” about Harris’ record as a prosecutor. She claimed Harris put more than 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, “and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
Harris said in an interview with the radio show “The Breakfast Club” she has smoked marijuana and supports the legalization of the drug. In the conversation, Harris laughed and said she tried pot in college and noted it was in the form of a joint.
Gabbard accused Harris of blocking evidence that would have exonerated a man on death row “until the courts forced her to do so,” and using prisoners as “cheap labor” for the state. Gabbard said Harris kept in place cash bail systems “that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”
On stage, Harris defended her record: “As the elected attorney general of California, I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people, which became a national model for the work that needs to be done,” adding she is “proud” of that work.
Gabbard said in a later interview with Cooper she thinks it’s “unfortunate” that Harris “resorts to cheap smears rather than actually addressing her record.”
The congresswoman said, “I don’t defend or apologize or have anything to do with what (Assad) has done to his own people.”