Zeldin under fire for tweet connecting bombing suspect to NFL quarterback
East End Congressman Lee Zeldin made waves on social media Monday morning with a tweet connecting the Chelsea bombing arrest to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“Suspect in custody. You are welcome Colin Kaepernick,” read a tweet from @leezeldin, one of two Twitter accounts in the first-term congressman’s name.
Suspect in custody. You are welcome Colin Kaepernick.
— Lee Zeldin (@leezeldin) September 19, 2016
The tweet inspired hundreds of comments from detractors and a response from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which called it a “reckless political statement” and accused Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) of trying to make headlines. His tweet led to posts on several major media websites, including the New York Daily News, Salon and TMZ.
Asked by The Suffolk Times for clarification on the meaning of his tweet, the congressman, a 36-year-old Army Reserve major, sent the following statement through a spokesperson: “This is that moment in time that reminds us exactly of why we are so blessed to have men and women in our military, law enforcement, and other first responders who would risk their lives and lay it all on the line to protect our freedoms and liberties. We wouldn’t be able to live in the greatest nation in the world if not for these heroes who keep us safe, secure and free. This is why our flag is more than just colored cloth. This is why I unapologetically love our country and our heroes who defend us. I’m insulted and disgusted when someone refuses to say the pledge or stand for the national anthem. That is their right of free speech and this is mine. I’m so grateful that we have our nation’s protectors to do what they do and do it so well.”
Mr. Kaepernick, a 28-year-old backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has refused to stand for the national anthem before the NFL team’s games this season. In an exclusive interview with NFL.com following the team’s final preseason game last month, Mr. Kaepernick, who is black, said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he said. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, was arrested in Linden, N.J. Monday morning in connection with the bombing that injured 29 people in Chelsea Saturday evening and two other explosions in New Jersey, according to The New York Times.
Mr. Zeldin is up for re-election for the first time in November, when he will be challenged by former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.