Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin was attacked during a speech on Thursday – and some people believe his Democratic rival bears at least partial responsibility.
Thanks to the quick response of several people in the audience, the attacker was quickly tackled, disarmed, and taken into police custody, allowing the shaken but physically unharmed Zeldin to finish his speech.
Shortly after news began to circulate about the harrowing incident, Twitter users pointed out that Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a press release shortly before the campaign event in Fairport and encouraged her supporters to show up, apparently to disrupt the speech.
Her statement included information about the time and location of the speech and used derogatory terms to describe her competitor. Hochul called Zeldin “‘Big Lie’ Lee” and asserted that he would be spreading “dangerous lies, misinformation, and his far-right agenda at these campaign events.”
Although the governor reacted to the attack by denouncing violence, plenty of critics said she was likely responsible for inspiring the assailant’s actions.
Independent journalist Andy Ngo described Hochul’s statement as “the same language and dog whistle used by Antifa militants to urge comrades to injure or kill targets.”
Although the suspect, David Jakubonis, was arrested and charged with a felony, he was soon released on bail, a move that “enraged” one of the men who jumped in to subdue the attacker.
“Unfortunately, it’s very much in line with the policies we’ve seen here in New York state that have led to surges in crime and violent crime,” said Joe Chenelly.
Although he clearly wanted to see the attacker brought to justice, Chenelly also expressed some empathy for Jakubonis, who is believed to be a military veteran struggling with mental issues stemming from his service in Iraq.
“As a veterans advocate, it just kind of struck me,” Chenelly concluded. “I told him that he’s got to deal with what he had done. And once he was through that, I would make sure that he gets the services that he needs.”
In a tweet shortly after the attack, Zeldin recalled that the attacker told him “you’re done” upon rushing the stage. The candidate went on to accurately predict that Jakubonis “will likely be instantly released under NY’s laws.”