Elise Stefanik Drops Endorsement of Craig Riedel Over Trump Comments

Elise Stefanik Drops Endorsement of Craig Riedel Over Trump Comments

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Political activist Charlie Kirk obtained audio of Mr. Riedel’s comments and circulated it on social media.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), chair of the House Republican Conference, said she’s withdrawing her endorsement of GOP Ohio congressional candidate Craig Riedel over remarks he made about former President Donald Trump that she described as “inappropriate.”

Mr. Riedel, a former state representative who’s now running for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, received a series of endorsements from GOP leaders over the summer, including from Ms. Stefanik.

“I am incredibly thankful to have earned the support of Speaker McCarthy, Leader Scalise, Whip Emmer, and Chairwoman Stefanik,“ Mr. Riedel said in a July 24 statement, in which he said he looked forward to working with the Republican leadership in Congress ”to ensure that we can protect our traditional American values, protect the Second Amendment, and get our economy moving again.”

At the time, Ms. Stefanik said she was giving Mr. Riedel her “complete and total endorsement,” while calling him the “conservative fighter we need” to expand the Republican majority in the House.

However, Ms. Stefanik has now withdrawn her endorsement after an audio tape surfaced of Mr. Riedel calling President Trump “arrogant” and vowing not to endorse him for president in 2024.

“Earlier this week, I informed Craig Riedel (OH-09) that I will be withdrawing my endorsement,” she said in a statement on X. “I was very disappointed in his inappropriate comments regarding President Trump.”

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Her focus, she said, is on helping nominate the strongest candidates on the ballot who are also committed to electing President Trump in his comeback bid for the White House.

Neither Mr. Riedel nor his campaign responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.

‘Different Direction’

Ms. Stefanik’s withdrawal of her endorsement for Mr. Riedel is the first from GOP House leadership, with the emergence of the audio coming as a surprise to many Republicans.

Political activist Charlie Kirk obtained the audio and circulated it on social media on Dec. 8.

“Look, Donald Trump, he’s a different person than me,” Mr. Riedel said in the recording of a conversation between him and conservative donor Alan Jacoby. “I don’t like the way he communicates. I think he is arrogant. I don’t like the way he calls people names. I just don’t think that’s very becoming of a president.”

Mr. Riedel also said he was neither looking to get an endorsement from President Trump for his congressional run nor would he be endorsing the former president.

“We need to go in a different direction,” Mr. Riedel continued, while expressing sympathy for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s one of President Trump’s main rivals in the Republican primary contest.

(L) Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Summit 2023 in Arlington, Va., on July 17, 2023; Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13, 2023. (AP Photo)
(L) Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Christians United For Israel (CUFI) Summit 2023 in Arlington, Va., on July 17, 2023; Former President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13, 2023. (AP Photo)

After the audio was circulated widely on social media, Mr. Riedel issued a statement endorsing President Trump and claiming that his comments in the audio were a setup between Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and a “social media trickster.”

“It’s very simple…I endorse Donald Trump for president,” Mr. Riedel wrote in the statement.

“Let me be clear…there is no question that President Trump’s record of securing our southern border, fighting inflation, creating jobs, and taking on our foreign adversaries like China is what we need over Joe Biden’s failed leadership,” he continued.

“Matt Gaetz and a social media trickster pulled a stunt yesterday to try and convince President Trump to get involved in my congressional primary for proven loser JR Majewski. Yesterday, a so-called donor called me, making numerous anti-Trump statements. I was clear then, and let me clear now: I am focused on winning this primary by defeating proven loser JR Majewski and then defeating Marcy Kaptur in the general election,” Mr. Riedel concluded.

J.R. Majewski is a 43-year-old Air Force veteran and Trump ally who won the 2022 Republican primary in the 9th District before losing to incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). He is among three Republican contenders, including Mr. Riedel, hoping to defeat the 77-year-old Ms. Kaptur, who is the longest-serving woman in Congress.

Mr. Majewski, who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol, gained public attention after painting a giant mural in support of President Trump across his lawn.

Steve Lankenau, a former mayor of Napoleon, Ohio, is the third Republican vying to be the GOP nominee to take on Ms. Kaptur in the 2024 election.


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