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Some Tulsi Gabbard campaign material runs afoul of military ethics rules

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii), speaks about House Resolution 922 at a press conference on July 18, 2018. The Hawaii Army National Guard, of which Gabbard is a veteran, has instructed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to take down or amend certain campaign material from her VoteTulsi Facebook page because it violates military ethics rules.

CAROLINE HURLEY/STARS AND STRIPES

By SOPHIE COCKE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: August 7, 2018

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Tribune News Service) — The Hawaii Army National Guard has instructed Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to take down or amend certain campaign material from her VoteTulsi Facebook page because it violates military ethics rules.

Gabbard, like other politicians with military experience, often uses images and video of herself in uniform in campaign ads. But the U.S. Department of Defense has policies in place aimed at making sure those ads are not seen as an endorsement from any branch of the military.

Campaign material must include a “prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer” that the ad or image is not a military endorsement. Candidates are also forbidden from using images of themselves in uniform as the primary graphic in campaign material.

Gabbard is a major in Hawaii’s Army National Guard and member of the Reserve forces. She served two tours of duty in the Middle East before being elected to Congress in 2012.

Gabbard’s campaign, as of Monday afternoon, appeared to have already removed a video of Gabbard in uniform on the VoteTulsi Facebook page that the National Guard had flagged. Her campaign also added a disclaimer to the website’s banner image — a photograph of Gabbard in uniform in a veterans cemetery — that notes the image does not imply an endorsement by the military. However, the disclaimer is visible only if one clicks on the photograph.

Hickman said Gabbard also ran afoul of the military ethics rules during one of her prior congressional campaigns.

“We have scolded people in the past, and they usually take it down right away,” said Tom Hickman, a spokesman for the Hawaii Army National Guard. “As soon as they take it down, it’s no harm, no foul.”

Gabbard’s campaign released a statement Monday saying that the congresswoman was compliant with Department of Defense regulations relating to sharing photos of her service in military uniform.

“The required DOD disclaimer is posted across all of her social media platforms, website, and on her television ads, and photos of her in uniform make up a very small percentage of all pictures posted,” said Erika Tsuji, a spokeswoman for Gabbard, in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution, a video that was posted on Facebook last night was removed and the disclaimer for the cover photo was made more prominent. We will continue working closely with the DOD to ensure we remain compliant with all DOD regulations.”

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