Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has added a new – and controversial - element to her campaign efforts with an embrace of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
In a recent CNN town hall, Stein characterized Assange as a hero for leaking Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails and exposing Americans to information about how the party was run. Stein also indicated that the possibility of Russian involvement in the leaks was something that “state departments do to one another.”
Stein went beyond merely praising Assange by inviting him to speak via teleconference to the Green Party’s national convention earlier this month. His views not only mesh with the party’s belief in transparency and civil liberties, they apparently speak to many Bernie Sanders supporters who believed they were part of a movement, not merely a campaign.
Assange addressed the audience from the Embassy of Ecuador in London where he's been living for the past four years as he fights extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.
“The Green Party bringing in Julian Assange is an attempt to further brand themselves as an alternative to Hillary Clinton in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ loss and the leaked DNC emails,” Jared Yates Sexton, a professor at Georgia Southern University and political contributor to The New Republic and New York Times, told Foxnews.com
“What I've found from time with the Greens, both at the convention and the Democratic National Convention, is that the ‘Bernie Or Bust’ people are primarily voters who wouldn't have normally voted Democrat in the first place and were probably either not going to vote or go for the Greens in the first place,” he added.
Stein gained attention in 2012 when she was arrested outside the presidential debate at Hofstra University, but she only managed to gain 470,000 votes as the Green Party’s presidential candidate.
By comparison, Ralph Nader garnered almost 3 million as the party’s presidential candidate in 2000.
Stein may be courting those Sanders voters, but she has not shied away from criticizing the Independent senator from Vermont.
Stein poked Sanders for choosing to run as a Democrat, saying that “false pragmatism is not the path to revolutionary change but rather an incrementalism that keeps us trapped, voting for lesser evil again and again.”
The former doctor eschewed pragmatism when she chose human rights activist Ajamu Baraka as her running mate.
Baraka has long affiliated himself with anti-Israel groups and last September did not mince words when criticizing Sanders.
“This is the world that a President Sanders promises—continued war crimes from the sky with drone strikes and Saudi led terror in support of the Western imperial project. This is not to suggest that everyone who might find a way to support Sanders is a closet racist and supporter of imperialism,” he wrote in a blog post excoriating the left wing following Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen.
“You have to consider what her (Stein’s) real objective is,” said Bill Scher, a senior writer for the liberal Campaign for America’s Future. “She does not care about getting on the debate stage, she wants to the five percent threshold in November. In doing that she will earn recognition by the Federal Election Commission as a minority party and will be able to make the party a more permanent fixture in American politics.
“This campaign is extremely relevant to their prospects going forward into the future as a progressive movement,” he told Foxnews.com.