Democrats’ assertion that Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) missed two-thirds of the hearings of the House Veterans Affairs Committee was rated “false” late Tuesday by Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning website that checks the facts behind political claims.
Yet PolitiFact couldn’t say exactly how many hearings Zeldin did attend.
It said it could verify only that Zeldin had been present at half — or 28 of the 56 committee hearings that it examined — because it could not determine whether he showed up at eight hearings that Democrats said he skipped but that Zeldin said he attended.
But it also said that Zeldin attended at least seven meetings that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said he didn’t.
Zeldin and his Democratic opponent Anna Throne-Holst as well as the DCCC claimed vindication from the Politifact assessment.
“Politifact has confirmed, Anna Throne-Holst doesn’t tell the truth,” said Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Sarah Frank in an email. Frank accused Throne-Holst of “manufacturing outrageous lies” to tear down Zeldin.
“Politifact could verify that Lee Zeldin attended only half of his hearings. That’s unacceptable,” said Throne-Holst spokesman Andrew Grunwald in a phone interview. “Only Lee Zeldin would brag about skipping out on the work that voters elected him to do.”
DCCC aide Bryan Lesswing said in an email, “Lee Zeldin claims to work for veterans, but even Politifact can only prove that he only showed up to half of Veterans Committee hearings.”
At issue was the DCCC claim in an Aug. 9 news release announcing robocalls that said Zeldin has a “no-show record” because he had missed two-thirds of the Veterans Affairs Committee hearings. The DCCC said he was present at 20 of the 56 hearings held since January of 2015.
Zeldin denied the claim. He said he had gone to 36 of those hearings.
Dan Clark, a reporter for the Buffalo News and Politifact New York, examined the evidence for the disputed 16 hearings, relying on four official transcripts produced during the first six months of last year and webcasts for the rest.
The transcripts, Clark wrote, showed Zeldin was present for two hearings the DCCC said he missed, and one that did not list him as attending, although he said he did.
The webcasts showed Zeldin in plain view or recorded him verbally voting in five of the hearings the DCCC said he skipped.
Clark wrote he could not determine whether Zeldin was present or not from eight webcasts because they don’t show the peripheral area where Zeldin, as a first-term congressman, sits and he could not be heard speaking.
“We did not find Zeldin in eight of the hearings his office said he attended. That does not mean he wasn’t there. Zeldin’s seat is on the outside of the dais, which is sometimes cut off from the camera’s view,” Clark wrote.
“He did not miss two-thirds of the hearings. We rate this claim from Throne-Holst and the DCCC as False,” Clark concluded.