Stein had voiced her approval of the WikiLeaks’ dump of private Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails.
“No question,” Stein responded when asked if Assange should be considered a hero, CNN reports.
The Green Party candidate dismissed concerns that Assange had obtained the DNC emails from Russian hackers, a suspicion widely held by the Democratic party and the intelligence community.
“This is what state departments do to one another,” Stein said, reasoning that Russia hacking into a U.S. political party was fair game.
Her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, added “I’m concerned that people are more concerned with the source than the revelations.”
The WikiLeaks dump in July had revealed that high-ranking staff in the DNC had an inappropriate bias against Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont while he was still running for the Democratic nomination. The revelations resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
On August 6, Assange himself spoke via satellite at the Green Party convention, signaling that the third party hopes to have a close relationship with the controversial figure. Assange told Green Party supporters that Clinton was not a suitable alternative to GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Assange has been accused by Democratic lawmakers of trying to manipulate the 2016 presidential election due to a private vendetta he has against Clinton. Stein’s efforts to court the data-leaker signal that she is an adversary of the former Secretary of State.
The WikiLeaks founder is currently holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy in London, and, if he leaves, faces charges of sexually assaulting two Stockholm women.
A Stein campaign aide told The Hill that the candidate was adamant in her praise for the WikiLeaks founder.
“We’d like to reiterate that Mr. Assange has provided an invaluable service in shedding light on the inner workings of our government where the interests of the rich and powerful far too often take precedence over the needs and interests of average Americans,” the campaign representative said.
Democratic political strategist Craig Varoga views Stein’s coziness with Assange as troubling, in addition to her downplaying of Russia’s possible involvement in the DNC hacks.
“I find it weird that [Stein] would characterize someone accused of sexual assault as a hero for anything,” Varoga said. “Other than that, it is a naive comment, perhaps with good intentions, that would serve only to legitimize the Russian efforts to destabilize the West and undermine the American political process.”
Stein has been campaigning to gain enough traction at the polls to reach the 15 percent national average threshold necessary to earn a spot at the October presidential debate.
Currently, the Green Party nominee’s efforts have only had modest gains. One particularly embarrassing Public Policy Polling survey released on August 16 found that Stein was polling at only two percent among Texas voters, the Independent reports.
In that same poll, Stein’s support tied with the slain zoo gorilla, Harambe. Both Stein and the gorilla polled below another unexpected candidate, “Deez Nuts.”
Sources: CNN, The Hill, Independent, Public Policy Polling / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr