Daniel Doherty

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is distancing itself from a staffer-approved email blast accusing New York State Senator and GOP congressional candidate Lee Zeldin of cowardice for refusing to publicly endorse -- or disavow -- the Paul Ryan budget plan. Zeldin is a veteran of the Iraq War. Two days ago when the story first broke, the National Republican Congressional Committee immediately demanded the organization apologize. Last night they finally did...sort of:

Democrats on Friday disowned a campaign email that called a Republican Iraq War veteran who's seeking to challenge Rep. Tim Bishop a "coward" for not taking a stand on a controversial House GOP federal budget proposal.

The email sent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Wednesday also superimposed the face of the veteran, state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), on a picture of the Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz."

Both Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), the DCCC chairman, and Bishop (D-Southampton) rejected the email after Zeldin condemned it on Fox News as a "shameful attack."

"Rep. Israel was not shown the comments used to describe Iraq War veteran Lee Zeldin before they were sent out by DCCC staffers. He not only disagrees with these comments, but strongly condemns them," said his aide Samantha Slater.

"Bishop would not have used those words nor does he approve of them," said his campaign manager Keith Davies. He said Bishop has "enormous respect and gratitude" for Zeldin's military service.

Still, as of this writing the email blast/blog post accusing Zeldin of cowardice has not been taken down from its website nor has the controversial tweet been deleted. The NRCC’s Andrew Clark released the following statement:

“Steve Israel and the DCCC should know by now that actions speaker louder than words. Will the DCCC and their spokesman actually take down and delete their condemned attacks? Or will their offensive attacks on Lee Zeldin’s character stay up?”

You can read my exclusive interview with Sen. Zeldin about this controversy here.

UPDATE (4:05 PM): The DCCC has finally taken down their condemned attacks.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography