Clinton said during a podcast interview last fall that one of the Democratic candidates is "the favorite of the Russians," leading Gabbard to lash out.
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton, claiming the former Democratic presidential nominee "carelessly and recklessly impugned" her reputation when she suggested in October that one of the 2020 Democratic candidates is "the favorite of the Russians."
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, says it aims to hold Clinton and other "political elites" accountable for "distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election."
Gabbard, a dark horse candidate who represents Hawaii, was on the campaign trail Wednesday and unavailable for comment, according to her law firm, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP.
"Although Rep. Gabbard's presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton's malicious and demonstrably false remarks," Brian Dunne, a partner at Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, said in a statement.
Dunne added that Clinton had exhibited a "personal hostility" toward Gabbard last fall, and the former secretary of state "resorted to a damaging whisper campaign founded on lies, and when presented with the opportunity to retract her damaging remarks, she refused."
Clinton's team did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.
Clinton made her comments during a podcast appearance on "Campaign HQ" with David Plouffe. At the time, she did not identify the current Democratic candidate whom she was referring to, but also said Jill Stein was a "Russian asset" as a third-party candidate in the 2016 presidential election.
Later, when asked if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, "If the nesting doll fits..." He subsequently tweeted that Clinton was referring to the Republican Party grooming Gabbard, not Russians.
Gabbard seized on Clinton's remark, accusing her in a tweet of being the "queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long."