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Lee Zeldin Wants You To Know He’ll Be The Kind of Governor Who Will Exploit and Misrepresent the Final Moments of a Man’s Life

Unapologetic ratfucker won’t let Saheed Vassell’s family grieve in peace

12:13 PM EST on November 7, 2022

Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell, begged Lee Zeldin to stop misrepresenting his son’s death at a press conference Monday. (Hell Gate)

Lee Zeldin has shown exactly who he is many, many times over in his campaign for governor, to the extent that, with one day left in the race, it might feel superfluous to many people to dwell on any one particular instance in which he revealed himself as a cynical, callous, dishonest, racist sack of shit.

It does not feel superfluous to the family of Saheed Vassell, the unarmed 34-year-old shot to death in a hail of bullets fired by plainclothes police four years ago, seconds after they arrived on the Crown Heights block where he was in the midst of a mental health crisis. 

Zeldin looked at video footage of Saheed’s final moments of life—and saw an opportunity to exploit that footage for his own personal gain. Campaign operatives pasted that footage into a wildly mendacious supercut of crime footage, one that Zeldin falsely presented to New Yorkers as “actual violent crimes caught on camera in Kathy Hochul’s New York.” He paid television stations to air it, and continues to publish the video on his own social media sites to this day.

For a family still coming to grips with the death of their son, Zeldin’s reframing of the footage as evidence of criminal menace under Governor Hochul is inaccurate, slanderous, racist, and deeply hurtful.

“Mr. Zeldin has placed an ad with my son, showing him to be a violent criminal,” Saheed’s father, Eric Vassell, said at a Monday morning press conference. “Doing so brings back grief and pain for my family. My wife could not be here today because she grieves so much for the loss of our son. Today, I am asking Mr. Lee Zeldin to take down that racist ad. The community is asking Mr. Zeldin to take down that racist ad. The friends and family are asking Mr. Zeldin to take down that racist ad, because my son Saheed Vassell was a loving, fine person. He was not a violent criminal.”

“This is a continuation of people using and misusing Black trauma,” New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said on Monday. “Insensitivity is not even the right word to use, when you use the trauma of somebody in a mental health breakdown, and use that as an ad while they're being murdered.”

“Thirty odd years ago, we all remember Willie Horton and the advertisements that went up by the Bush campaign,” Councilmember Lincoln Restler said. “We shouldn't have the same things happening in New York. It is wrong. This is race-baiting, this is fear-mongering, this is racist. Lee Zeldin is a racist.”

This isn’t the first time the Vassells have tried to prevail on Zeldin to take down the ad. They’ve been publicly calling for him to do so since September, without avail. A cease and desist letter from the family’s attorneys sent last week has not received a response. The ad remains on Zeldin’s YouTube page and social media pages. Asked why the campaign continues to run the ad, Katie Vincentz, a spokesperson for the Zeldin campaign, told Hell Gate the ad hasn’t aired in a month and a half—presumably referring to broadcast and cable television. She did not answer questions about who made the advertisement, how much Zeldin spent on it,  how many times it aired on TV channels, or why the campaign continues to publish it online.

Unfortunately for the Vassell family, Lee Zeldin appears to be the sort of guy who will step on anyone’s face to benefit himself, smiling blandly while he does it. 

Unfortunately for the rest of us, there’s a real, not-insignificant chance he could be the next governor. If he does win, we’ll know what we’re getting, because he already showed us, in how he treated one grieving Brooklyn family.

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