Tensions rise between 2 of Hawaii’s Congressional leaders over ‘religious bigotry’ comments

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono(Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono)
Updated: Jan. 9, 2019 at 8:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard appears to have “called out” U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono over her questioning of a judicial nominee, accusing her and others of religious bigotry.

Conservative media groups have been covering Sen. Hirono’s questioning of judicial nominee Brian Buescher for several weeks.

In a stunning op-ed published on Tuesday, Congresswoman Gabbard said while she opposes Buescher nomination, she stands strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry.

Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore said this type of division in Hawaii’s delegation is extremely rare.

"Congresswoman Gabbard goes so far as to call this a form of religious bigotry, which I think is really shocking. Although she doesn't mention Senator Hirono by name, she's certainly talking about her line of questioning," said Moore. “I think this is quite a shocking break in the delegation.”

Sen. Hirono’s spokesperson issued a statement saying:

“Senator Hirono, asks all judicial nominees – particularly those who have expressed very strong personal ideological views in conflict with Supreme Court precedent – if they can be fair. She asked Mr. Buescher, who has a clear record of anti-choice activism, whether he could separate his personal beliefs from decisions he would make if confirmed for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Over the past two years, the Senator has been attacked by right wing ideologues for her examination of Donald Trump’s ideologically-driven nominees to the courts. It is unfortunate that Congresswoman Gabbard based her misguided opinion on the far-right wing manipulation of these straightforward questions.”

Dr. Kioni Dudley, a member of the Knights of Columbus, said although they participate in things like the March for Life, they are knights with all kinds of different personal views and there are knights in elected office.

“President Kennedy was a Knight of Columbus; Vice President Biden is a Good Catholic. So, you’ve got all kinds of people who have been in the office, in high office, who have done what they think is best for the people no matter what their church says they should do,” Dr. Dudley said.

Another member of the knights is Rep. Gabbard’s father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who did not respond to Hawaii News Now’s request for comment.

Moore said the congresswoman seems to be preparing herself for a presidential run and may be trying to assert her independence.

“Of course politicians don’t always like each other, they disagree with each other in private, but it’s pretty hard to take those words back once it’s been in the public view,” Moore said. “So, it could be very, very difficult I think for Senator Hirono and Congresswoman Gabbard to repair their relationship after that and that makes the delegation weaker. They have to work together, and they have to show a united front.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Gabbard sent Hawaii News Now the following statement:

“Tulsi respects Senator Hirono, but we always need to remember that freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights, which so many brave Americans across generations have put their lives on the line to protect. No nominee for public service should be disqualified, either directly or indirectly because of their religion or religious affiliation. She will always fight for religious freedom and oppose religious bigotry — no matter where it comes from or to whom it’s directed, be they Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, or atheists.”

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