Hillary Clinton has backed out of a Friday appearance at an event also scheduled to include Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, among other guests, according to a report.
Word of Clinton's removal from the bill of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit came Thursday, the same day the former secretary of state sparked a clash by accusing Gabbard of being groomed by Russia to run as a third-party candidate for president in 2020.
The Hawaii congresswoman and combat veteran fired back in a scathing series of tweets later Thursday, challenging Clinton not to “hide behind your proxies” and join the presidential race "directly."
GABBARD DARES CLINTON TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020, FIGHTS BACK AGAINST ASSERTIONS THAT SHE IS A RUSSIAN ASSET
Slate.com reported that Clinton removed herself from the three-day summit due to a scheduling conflict. An unnamed source told the publication that Clinton decided not to participate in an act of protest against former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was also scheduled to speak.
Nielsen, who resigned in April, oversaw the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families at the border. The policy was later rescinded.
More than 51,000 people signed a petition asking Fortune to pull Nielsen from the summit’s roster, Slate also reported. About 100 speakers were still scheduled to attend the summit as of Friday evening.
Gabbard and lawyer Anita Hill are among the more high-profile scheduled speakers, on a list that also includes business executives, journalists, scholars and some elected officials. (Hill became a household name in 1991 when she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who had been her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment.)
In her remarks Thursday on “Campaign HQ,” a podcast hosted by former President Obama aide David Plouffe, Clinton did not mention Gabbard by name, though Plouffe ended the podcast by noting Clinton’s “belief that Tulsi Gabbard is going to be a third-party candidate propped up by Trump and the Russians.”
Clinton also singled out 2016 Democratic candidate Jill Stein, accusing her of being a Russian asset. The former first lady, whom Donald Trump defeated for the presidency in 2016, has recently been promoting a book co-authored with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.
Gabbard has faced criticism from several other fellow Democrats, who have accused her of being a "puppet for the Russian government." The Army National Guard major, who served in Iraq, has repeatedly defended her antiwar, anti-interventionist beliefs, which have led to some comparisons between her and President Trump.
At Tuesday's fourth Democratic debate in Ohio, Gabbard relentlessly slammed CNN, which was broadcasting the event live, and The New York Times, calling them "completely despicable" for news coverage that has raised questions about whether she is a "Russian asset and an Assad apologist," a reference to the leader of Syria.
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.