Rep. Engel On Protests: ‘If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care’

Congressman Eliot Engel, a Democrat who has represented New York in the House of Representatives for more than 31 years and is facing a primary challenge, was caught on a hot mic at a district event Tuesday, after another day and night of looting in New York City.

“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Rep. Eliot EnGel On Riots

“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel, who serves as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. (D) at a press conference Tuesday that was held in response to unrest and vandalism in his district related to the recent protests and riots. 

After Diaz, Jr. failed to hear Engel’s comment (which was muffled by his mask) he asked him to “say it again.” Congressman Engel proceeded to repeat the sentence.

“Don’t do that to me,” replied Diaz, Jr.

Rep. Engel has also faced questions about his absence from his district. He represents New York’s 16th Congressional District, which includes portions of The Bronx and Westchester County, including the communities of Mount Vernon, Yonkers and New Rochelle.

Engel’s district was an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

Later in the day, Rep. Engel issued a statement to NBC News in response to the backlash from his controversial remarks.

“In the context of running for reelection, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” he told NBC. “Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important.”

Engel’s primary challenger, Jamaal Bowman, took him to task on Twitter.

“This is so incredibly painful to watch,” Bowman said of Rep. Engel’s hot mic moment. “It hurts. We need to be taking care of our communities right now — whether it’s election season or not. It’s clear that we need new leadership in (our district).” will continue to follow events in New York City and around the nation.

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