Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) called Donald Trump’s comments about women that surfaced in a video last week “indefensible and wrong,” but said he still backed him because of the U.S. Supreme Court vacancies at stake and Hillary Clinton’s scandals.
At a candidate forum with Democratic congressional challenger Anna Throne-Holst on Monday night, Zeldin said he was not on a conference call between Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican members earlier in the day when the GOP leader said he would no longer defend Trump or campaign for him.
In an interview after the forum held by the Sound Beach Civic Association, Zeldin would not comment on Ryan’s position. “I’d like to talk to him to better understand the process behind it,” said Zeldin, who represents the 1st Congressiona District.
The first question to Zeldin at the forum was about Trump’s comments in the 2005 video that became public last Friday. Trump talked in vulgar terms about his ability to grope women without their consent because he was famous.
“I’m not going to defend it. It’s indefensible and wrong,” Zeldin responded.
The first-term congressman had issued a brief statement after the tape surfaced, but his remarks at the forum were his first public comments about the issue.
Zeldin said he still supported Trump for president after the debate.
“He’s running against Hillary Clinton and she shouldn’t be commander in chief,” Zeldin said. “She’s not better suited to be picking Supreme Court justices. She has horrible conflicts of interest because of the Clinton Foundation.” Zeldin also pointed to her handling of classified information on her private email server.
Throne-Holst, a former Southampton Town supervisor, would not say whether she believed Clinton was trustworthy when asked at the forum. But, she said, “I’m not going to vote for a sexual predator who brags about being a sexual predator.”
Trump has apologized for the comments, calling them “locker room talk.” He said he never sexually assaulted anyone.