Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) appeared on Newsmax’s “Wake Up America Weekend” to discuss political violence after he was attacked while speaking at an event near Rochester during his campaign for governor of New York.
During his interview on Newsmax on Sunday, three days after his attack, Zeldin insisted that the ballot box is the actual place people should be settling scores, as “political violence has no place during any of this electoral process.”
“The entire attack was something that strikes to the core of any freedom-loving American who wants to see scores that people might have against others settled at the ballot box,” the New York congressman said. “I encourage people to get involved, to vote, and to be informed. But what we also have to do is make sure that people aren’t taking matters into their own hands and interfering with what was a campaign rally.”
Zeldin’s attacker, 43-year-old Army veteran David Jakubonis, was initially arrested, charged with second-degree assault and then released on his own recognizance just hours after he jumped onto the stage and attacked the gubernatorial candidate with a weapon thanks to New York’s soft-on-crime policies. But, following a federal complaint filed by the FBI on Saturday, Jakubonis is now facing federal charges.
The suspect was taken into custody again on Saturday at his apartment complex and is now facing federal charges of using a dangerous weapon to assault a member of Congress. Later that day, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian Payson.
“What we also have to do is make sure that people aren’t taking matters into their own hands,” said Zeldin, noting that it was fortunate that his attack wasn’t any worse.
“This is not just something that is just some isolated event,” he added.
Zeldin went on to state that he is in his fourth term in Congress, and over the past few years, violent threats have grown, citing the 2017 congressional baseball shooting that injured Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and four others, as well as the recent intimidation of conservative Supreme Court justices by protesters who have appeared at their homes after a radical pro-abortion group doxxed their addresses.
The GOP congressman also noted that radical individuals in Congress have contributed to the climate of political violence, such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who called on her supporters to confront members of former President Donald Trump’s administration in public.
“People actually do take matters into their own hands,” Zeldin said. “They heed that advice, so that’s a sensitivity that I think people need to have right now. If you are running a campaign, if you are the candidate, tell a message. Send a message to your supporters and others that political violence has no place [here] and we settle our scores at the ballot box. We all need to tell everybody that.”
According to the FBI affidavit filed on Saturday, Jakubonis claimed while speaking with investigators that he “did not know who the speaker was or that the speaker was a political person” when he jumped onto the stage while Zeldin was speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The attacker also claimed that he had only gotten onto the stage to ask the congressman if he was disrespecting veterans, saying that he had been drinking whiskey and only had his weapon — a keychain shaped like a cat’s face with two sharp points for ears — for protection.
During the interview on Newsmax, Zeldin noted that multiple people had told him that Jakubonis was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attempted attack, and that the man had denied knowing who Zeldin was or that he was even at a campaign rally, but the congressman said that he finds that “somewhat unbelievable, even if he was under the influence.”
“He came up on that stage with a weapon in his hand and lunged towards my throat, saying ‘you’re done,’” Zeldin explained. “The idea that you’re just going to say that, you know, you have no responsibility for any of that is just quite unbelievable.”
The New York Republican went on to question the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of his attack, stating that there has been a “near total blackout” on most networks.