Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) said during an interview Wednesday that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is "not the enemy of the United States."
The Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," dodged when asked to more specifically categorize Assad's relationship to the United States but admitted "it's possible" Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people.
"Do you think Assad is our enemy?" panelist Kasie Hunt asked Gabbard.
"Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States," Gabbard responded.
Co-host Joe Scarborough followed up later, asking if Assad is an "adversary" of the United States.
"We have to look to who poses a threat to the United States—" Gabbard began to respond.
Scarborough pointed out that many world leaders "don't pose a direct military threat to the United States," but "consider themselves to be adversaries of the United States."
"Vladimir Putin considers America to be an enemy. We consider Russia to be an adversary. Do you consider Assad to be an adversary of the United States?" Scarborough asked.
"When I look at whether it's Syria or Turkey or Russia or China or other countries in the world, I look at what are their interests and are their interests counter to our interests?" Gabbard responded.
"If you cannot say he's an adversary or an enemy, what is Assad to the U.S.? What is the word?" co-host Mika Brzezinski asked.
"You can describe it however you want to describe it," Gabbard said.
"I want to know how you describe it," Brzezinski responded.
"My point is, whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours," Gabbard answered.
The congresswoman later said U.S. troops should not be in Syria.
Co-host Willie Geist asked if Gabbard believed Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people, something the congresswoman has questioned in the past.
"I certainly think it's possible. My skepticism in the past has been solely on saying, show us the evidence before you deploy U.S. troops into military action because I served in Iraq and I understood what that cost came when the American people were lied to and presented false evidence, where we started off a new war," Gabbard responded.
Geist pressed on the question of chemical weapons, asking who would have deployed them if not Assad. Gabbard suggested it could have been "other bad actors and terrorists within Syria."
A Washington Post op-ed referred to Gabbard as Assad's "mouthpiece in Washington." She stood by her decision to meet with Assad in January 2017. A few months later, Assad was accused of carrying out a chemical attack on civilians that prompted U.S. missile strikes in Syria.
The left-wing Daily Kos, in a piece that endorsed her Democratic primary opponent in her congressional race, criticized Gabbard for meeting with Assad. The Nation also slammed Gabbard's skepticism of Assad's use of chemical weapons.