Rep. Lee Zeldin, speaking with Newsmax on Sunday three days after being attacked while speaking at a campaign stop near Rochester, insisted that the ballot box is the place to settle 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 Republican congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate, told Newsmax's "Wake Up America Weekend." "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."
Following a federal complaint filed by the FBI Saturday, the suspect in Thursday's incident, Army veteran David Jakubonis, 43, is now facing federal charges of using a dangerous weapon to assault a member of Congress. He was arrested at his home and later in the day appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian Payson.
Jakubonis, who was free on his recognizance after initially being charged with second-degree assault, was taken into custody Saturday at his apartment complex.
"What we also have to do is make sure that people aren't taking matters into their own hands," said Zeldin, adding that it was fortunate that the attack wasn't any worse. "This is not just something that is just some isolated event."
He noted that he's in his fourth term in Congress, and over the past few years, violent threats have grown, including the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and the intimidation of Supreme Court justices by protesters appearing at their homes.
There are also people like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., calling on her supporters to confront members of former President Donald Trump's administration in public, said Zeldin.
"People actually do take matters into their own hands," said Zeldin. "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 Saturday, Jakubonis told investigators that he "did not know who the speaker was or that the speaker was a political person" when he jumped the stage while Zeldin was addressing a Veterans of Foreign Wars post to ask the congressman if he was disrespecting veterans.
He told investigators he had been drinking whiskey, and that he had his weapon, a cat-shaped keychain with two sharp points, for protection.
Zeldin told Newsmax that several people told him that Jakubonis was under the influence of alcohol and that he denied knowing who he was or that he was even at a campaign rally, but 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 toward my throat, saying 'you're done,'" said Zeldin. "You're just going to say that [if] you know you have no responsibility for any of that is just quite unbelievable."
The congressman also questioned the media's coverage of his attack, noting that there has been a "near total blackout" on most networks.
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