There is a concerted effort to portray Tulsi Gabbard as "a crazy cult member" by people claiming to have nothing but "concerns." What those concerns are is never laid out other than a general "concern" about being a puppet of a "cult leader." What is actually the case?
Salem Witch Trials Redux?
Hinduism is practiced in various ways by Hindus but a common aspect of Hinduism is the guru. A guru is similar to a family priest or a rabbi and so on for practicing Hindus. The role of the guru is often more central to their spiritual succor than is seen in say--Christianity. The pastor or priest is not as central to Christian lives as a guru is in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. So what non-Hindus or non-Eastern religion practitioners observe when they encounter traditional Hindu or Eastern practices is more focus on a guru than they are used to seeing in their culture's religious traditions. This is then often translated into ideas like "cult" after the concept of "Hindu teacher=cult leader" started in the 1960s after many westerners flocked to gurus who had come over to America after the Immigration act of 1965 allowed more Asian visitors into the US.
When many Hindu and Buddhist gurus became popular in the '60s and hundreds of thousands of young people from Christian and Jewish families were giving up their religion and following them, there was a large outcry in the media labeling traditional Hindu and Buddhist practices as cult-like, i.e., the importance of the guru for spiritual learning, the importance of time spent in an ashram to learn, and so on. The media essentially demonized all westerners who took up Hindu or Buddhist practices as "cult members." This was largely due to their ignorance of Eastern religions and how often they traditionally function more like schools (ashram), with a guru as the sacred professor. Western religions are more geared towards simple worship and inspiration, rather than as a school environment, except for seminaries and so on. Eastern religions have that aspect as well with simple worship--but the guru with his ashram where you go to live for a period of time to immerse in learning is also a major aspect.
There arose an entire "anti-cult" industry to make money off of worried parents who had been told their children were now "cult members" simply because of their own choice to follow traditional Hindu and Buddhist practices. They were converts, but spoken of constantly in the media as "brainwashed cult members."
If those kids had done the same exact practices within a Christian or Jewish setting, say joining a monastery to become a priest or nun, and so on, then they wouldn't have been told by the media that their kids were now "cult members." But because Hindu and Buddhist practices were so utterly foreign at that time, and still are to a large degree to so many, the media pushed the paradigm that all "Hindu and Buddhist gurus are cult leaders and their followers are all cult members." The anti-cult industry would sell the danger of "the guru brainwashing your normal family members" and for a steep price would "free" their loved ones from the "cult leader."
This entire episode in American history is viewed very negatively by religious scholars who claim it was all based on ignorance, bigotry, and profit. That industry never went away and while it is no longer a popular topic for media like it was in the '60s-'80s, they are still trying to profit from the ignorance of gullible westerners. People from that industry directly led to the disaster to the followers of Waco based Christian leader David Koresh by over-hyping them as a "dangerous cult" to law enforcement agencies who accepted their profit based expertise as legitimate "experts."
Another type of person who makes claims of "the dangerous Hindu or Buddhist cult" is the ex-member. Sometimes someone who joins an Indian religious group from a western background and then has some unpleasant experience, and or then loses whatever faith they had in that religious teaching, will then become a critic who wants to "save others" from going through what they went through. Often being under-educated on Eastern traditions and norms in general, often you will see them claim they were "in a cult" because that is what other critics have said of Hindu or Buddhist religious groups centered around the teachings of a guru. They misrepresent what is the normal Hindu religious paradigm because they are either ignorant or they are angry. Or there are also people who grew up with parents who followed the teachings of a Hindu or Buddhist guru and resented it and lash out later in life.
This doesn't mean that there are not some unscrupulous Hindu or Buddhist teachers out there who seek to exploit followers. There are. This is true of all religions though. But if a religious group in the west isn't part of mainstream religions, and is centered around a religious leader, more often than not they are labeled a "cult" and the followers "cult members." They may have the same type of lifestyle as the mainstream devout religious Christian or Jew, but because they are not following a mainstream western tradition they are demonized by profit seekers or ignorant media, and by ex-members who want revenge for their personal perceived mistreatment, or commonly from those who lost faith and felt they followed a fake belief system and want either revenge for their belief they were "fooled by," or who sincerely believe they want to help others not be fooled.
Because Tulsi is seen as a threat to so many because of her anti-war and progressive politics, you can expect attacks on her through this angle which has been tried by media in Hawaii for a long time, especially media connected to the Omidyar network who are closely tied into the media war racket landscape.
The screen capture above is from Pierre Omidyar's hometown personal news website Civil Beat, it has been a religious "rumor" reporter for years and years teaching everybody in Hawaii about Tulsi Gabbard and her scary "cult" religion. Hawaii's Hindu children went to bed one night thinking they were old fashioned yoga lovin Hindus, but were shocked and surprised when they woke up and all their friends informed them that they were now scary cultists!
That's good 'ol Pierre, always helping out the Hawaiian people with his "journalism" hobby. Exactly zero other media has ever called Civil Beat out for their bigoted hate mongering Hinduphobia. In fact they were only first in a long line of subsequent Hinduphobic hate mongering media outlets who are getting more and more boldly out in the open by the day in not only alt-media, but now also some mainstream media outlets. Not to mention the Democratic congressional challengers Tulsi has faced over the years--each one has constantly spread negative religious innuendo at Tulsi for years, and continue to do so till this day. Hawaii media is complicit in their silence about it, as is Democrat leadership in Hawaii and at the national level, who have said nothing about the hate mongering towards Hindus from Democrat candidates towards Tulsi, but in fact support Tulsi's challengers who engage in it.
There are also people being paid by foreign governments to push not only the cult angle of attack, but also the "Hindu nationalist" angle of attack on Tulsi. Those countries are the ones Tulsi is most critical towards for supporting regime change wars and or terrorism. We typically see journos connected to those countries and or their media or think tanks being the leading purveyors of religious based smears, whereas the MSM sticks to other smears because the Dems have close relationships with Indian business leaders in America and around the world and don't want to appear Hinduphobic.
The political propaganda tying Tulsi to Indian politics usually relies on simply repeating the typically hyperbolic political propaganda seen in India coming from the opposition parties to the current party in power the BJP. It's like if in China the Chinese media used GOP anti-Dem talking points, or Dem anti-GOP talking points, to define American politics--instead of using their own judgement based on independent research. That would be foolish, but that is what is being done with explaining Indian politics outside of India by either politically motivated actors, smear merchants (paid to lie), or ignorant people repeating their propaganda. Alt-media in the west do not usually understand that the mainstream media in India (called Lutyens Media in India) is connected to the DNC connected mainstream media in America and the EU connected mainstream media in Europe, they all push the same worldview, share the same biases, work under the same corporate hegemony. In India the mainstream media treats Modi and the BJP like how the media in England treats Corbyn (fake smears as antisemitic and a Putin sympathizer) and how the media in America treats Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Trump, or anyone that is seen as lacking submission to the corporate statist oligarchy--the media smears them constantly if they appear able to gain political power.
Many leaders of various countries don't like supposed nationalist Hindus in power in India because they want leaders in India who they hope to coerce (bribe) into supporting their own agendas (Saudis, UAE, Qatar, Pakistan, China, UK and European countries, etc.) and they of course hate the idea of a Hindu as an American president for the same reasons--thinking their exploitative agenda in India will be thwarted simply due to religious bias. Then there are the mass of American Christian evangelical organizations working in India who are very upset by the actions of the BJP in more closely regulating them than previously due to their longtime practice of denying people care unless they first profess faith in Christ--a unique form of proselytizing aimed at poverty stricken people in India and other countries. They are major players in smears towards Tulsi and Hinduism in general in the west, simply because she is a Hindu and no other reason.