Gabbard responds to criticism for wearing BJP scarf: 'Somebody put something around my neck and snapped a picture'

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSanders opens up 15-point lead in New Hampshire: Poll Yang qualifies for New Hampshire debate stage Poll: Bernie Sanders holds 9-point lead in New Hampshire MORE (D-Hawaii) is pushing back against criticism of her supposed support for India's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), telling a town hall audience that such attacks are prompted by religious bigotry.

At a New Hampshire town hall on Sunday, the 2020 candidate for president was questioned by an audience member about whether she had financially supported the BJP, which Gabbard denied, over a picture of her appearing next to BJP supporters while wearing a scarf with the party's logo.

"Sometimes, as we're standing ... people come up and they want to take a picture. Somebody put something around my neck and snapped a picture without my knowing what it was," she said.

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"That's the reality of ... that's what happened in the picture," Gabbard continued, before adding, "Any implication or accusation or efforts to elicit some kind of suspicion about me or my motives can only be attributed to religious bigotry because I'm a practicing Hindu."

Gabbard has faced criticism in the past for attending events hosted by the Overseas Friends of the BJP over the pro-Hindu nationalist views of India's current ruling political party.

Gabbard, who has also taken heat for sitting down with Syrian President Bashar Assad, failed to qualify for December's Democratic primary debate and currently sits in the single digits in New Hampshire and other early voting states. Her criticism of establishment Democrats, particularly 2016 White House nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHill.TV's Krystal Ball: Failure to embrace Sanders as nominee would 'destroy' Democratic Party Clinton says she feels the 'urge' to defeat Trump in 2020 Can Democrats flip the Texas House? Today's result will provide a clue MORE, has led some to fear that should could mount a third-party bid, a claim Gabbard has denied.