Gillibrand defends Green New Deal, calls climate change 'greatest threat to humanity we have'

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand compared the Green New Deal to NASA's race for the Moon in the 1960s, telling Fox News' "Special Report" Monday night that "global climate change ... is the greatest threat to humanity we have."

"Scientists have just reached the conclusion that [climate change is] happening far quicker than we know," the fired-up senator from New York told Chris Wallace. "And, what New Yorkers know and what people all across this country know is, when severe weather hits, people die. It destroys communities."

The Green New Deal, championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and endorsed by several of Gillibrand's would-be competitors in the Democratic field, is an ambitious jobs and infrastructure program that calls for every building in the United States to be replaced or retrofitted to become more energy efficient and for the replacement of air travel with high-speed rail, among other conditions. Republicans have mocked the proposal, saying it would cost trillions of dollars and cripple the U.S. economy.

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"When John F. Kennedy was president, he said, let’s put a man on the Moon in the next 10 years, not because it’s easy but because it’s hard," Gillibrand said. "It will be a measure of our innovation, our entrepreneurialism, our excellence. Why not say to the American people, ‘Global climate change is not only real, but the urgency of this moment requires a call to action to all of America’s engineers, all of our entrepreneurs, all of our innovators to ... solve the problems together?'"

Gillibrand and Wallace then had a lively exchange over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's vow to not hold any "big-money fundraisers" during her campaign. Wallace asked Gillibrand if she saw any contradiction between Warren's promise and Gillibrand's plans to hold a March fundraiser at the home of Pfizer executive Sally Susman.

"I think you do need to get money out of politics," Gillibrand said. "... Today, the wealthiest, most powerful lobbyists and special interest groups get to write bills in the dead of night."

"Okay, but answer my one question directly," Wallace interrupted.

"I will, but –" Gillibrand began.

"$2,700," said Wallace, referring to the reported top ticket price for the fundraiser.

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"Let me finish, let me finish," Gillibrand said. "I got you, I got you, I got your point, I’m going to get to it." The senator went on to describe Susman as "who’s a dear friend who I’ve known for years and years, who believes in my gay-rights platform and believes in women’s rights."

"Okay, but what about $2,700 tickets?" Wallace asked again.

"Let me finish," Gillibrand said again. "So, what’s wrong with Washington is, there’s so much corruption. So much corruption, so much greed. We can’t actually pass common sense gun reform in this country not because the American people aren’t behind it – because they are – but because the (National Rifle Association) is more worried about gun sales than they are about the well-being of our kids. So what’s really wrong with Washington is corruption and greed."

"Can you answer my question," Wallace repeated.

"Yes, just let me finish," said Gillibrand, who went on to claim she would not take money from federal lobbyists, super-PACs or corporate PACs and would not have an individual super-PAC for her campaign.

"Could you just answer, though," Wallace responded. "$2,700 tickets, are you going to go ahead and have the fundraiser or not?"

"Of course, I’m going to ask Americans all across this country to support my campaign," Gillibrand said.

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"And, you don't see a contradiction?" asked Wallace.

"I don't," Gillibrand said, "because at the end of the day, people are going to support our campaign because they believe in us."

Fox News' Chris Wallace contributed to this report.