(CNSNews.com) - Jake Tapper, host of CNN's "State of the Union," told Democrat Pete Buttigieg on Sunday he thinks Hillary Clinton's comments about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) are an "obvious smear" and a "wild accusation."
Tapper invited Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, to comment on Clinton's recent accusation that the Russians "have got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She's a favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far."
Clinton's spokesman confirmed that she was talking about Gabbard.
"[I]s it helpful to have the 2016 nominee suggesting that a congresswoman is a Russian asset?" Tapper asked Buttigieg:
"I'd prefer to have the conversation be about policy, about what we're going to do, and about how American lives are going to be different," Buttigieg responded. "When it comes to any of my Democratic competitors, that's my focus, making sure that we make very clear the differences -- and there are very real differences among us -- and making it clear to voters what their choices are. That's where I'd like to focus to be."
Tapper followed up, asking Buttigieg, "Do you think Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset?"
"I don't know what the basis is for that," Buttigieg said. "I consider her to be a competitor, somebody who I respect her service.
"I also have very different views then she does, especially on foreign policy. And I would prefer to have that argument in terms of policy, which is what we do with debates and what we're doing as we go forward."
Tapper noted that Democrats complain when President Trump "smears people," so "why don't Democrats...say that about Tulsi Gabbard? It seems like an obvious smear. I don't see any evidence she's a Russian asset. It seems like a wild accusation."
"Yes, I think statements like that ought to be backed by evidence," Buttigieg replied.
He then changed the subject to "things that are actually undermining America," such as "corruption" in the White House and Trump's "mixing of domestic politics and foreign affairs."