Zeldin Campaign Staffer Says Hochul’s Press Release Could Be A ‘Motivating Factor’ In Attack

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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A staffer for Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin claimed Friday that a press release from Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office could be a “motivating factor” in the attack on the congressman.

A field director for Zeldin sent the Daily Caller a Thursday press release by Hochul’s office that posted the dates and times of the campaign events. The press release accused the Zeldin’s bus tour of spreading “dangerous lies, misinformation and his far-right agenda.”

He said the bus tour schedule had not previously been made public by Zeldin’s campaign. A Hochul spokesperson said a reporter publicly shared Zeldin’s schedule as early as 12:46 p.m., before the release went out.

“RSVP to hear about Zeldin’s ‘Election Integrity Task Force,’ and his recent election fraud scandal in which his campaign photocopied over 11,000 duplicate petition signatures,” the release said.

Police identified the alleged attacker as 43-year-old David Jakubonis, who climbed onstage and attempted to stab Zeldin in the neck with a sharp blade during his speech on bail reform in Perinton, New York, late Thursday. The gubernatorial candidate, currently serving in Congress, grabbed the suspect’s wrist to prevent the knife from stabbing him. A group of people, including Republican Lt. gubernatorial candidate Alison Esposito and American Veterans director Joe Chenelly, reportedly detained Jakubonis until police arrived.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s office arrived at the scene in less than five minutes and arrested the alleged suspect, they announced in a press release. Jakubonis is charged with second-degree attempted assault, then released from jail “on his own recognizance.”

The staffer claimed Hochul’s press release could have been a “motivating factor” in the attack, given that it publicly shared the date and times of the events. Jakubonis likely learned of the campaign event, “Unite To Fire Hochul,” from the release and RSVP’d, he told the Daily Caller. (RELATED: NY GOP Demands Dem Governor Apologize For Fanning ‘The Flames Of Hate’ Ahead Of Attempt On Lee Zeldin’s Life) 

The chairman of the New York State Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, also suggested the press release contributed to the attack and demanded Hochul apologize for “fanning the flames of hate.”

“It’s not a coincidence that just hours earlier, Kathy Hochul fanned the flames of hate by directing her supporters to his rally schedule,” Langworthy claimed. “This is unacceptable conduct for anyone, let alone a sitting governor. It’s not enough to condemn the attack, she must apologize and tone down her hateful rhetoric immediately.”

Hochul condemned the attack Thursday.

“My team has informed me about the incident at Lee Zeldin’s campaign event tonight,” the governor said. “Relieved to hear that Congressman Zeldin was not injured and that the suspect is in custody. I condemn this violent behavior in the strongest terms possible — it has no place in New York.”

The staffer further told the Daily Caller that Zeldin is in “good spirits” and is “even more motivated” to combat the rampant violence that has erupted in the state of New York.

Hochul’s office declined to comment on the accusation.