Republican gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin just couldn’t catch a break Friday on the campaign trail where he fell into the crosshairs of a so-called Flat Earther less than a day after escaping an attack from an unhinged Army vet.
“We’re being lied to. So NASA uses CGI animation. Are you aware of this? So the blue marble that everybody thinks is Earth that was made on a computer,” a man who identified himself as a US Navy veteran, said to Zeldin at a press conference in Watertown in the North Country.
The Long Island congressman soon set the apparent crank straight about geographical facts first unearthed by Copernicus during the Renaissance centuries ago.
“So personally, I strongly disagree. I believe that the Earth is round. And I’ve traveled the Earth. I’ve seen it from the sky as you’re traveling on a flight abroad, the Earth is clearly round. I mean it’s 100% indisputable,” Zeldin replied alongside running mate Alison Esposito and former primary rival Andrew Giuliani.
The exchange in Watertown came less than a day after Zeldin was attacked by a knife-wielding man at a campaign event outside of Rochester. Zeldin was unarmed by the alleged assailant, who assailed the candidate, saying, “You’re done” and was quickly subdued and arrested but then just as quickly released, sparking outrage.
Zeldin is running against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul, who condemned the attack soon after it happened, in the November election for governor.
While not nearly as serious as the attack on Thursday, getting grilled by a Flat Earther highlighted how unexpected events continue to confront Zeldin.
“This is the longest day of my life,” Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz tweeted Friday.
His response to the question about the Earth being supposedly flat is in line with the unanimous view of scientists, who have proven that the Earth is a sphere-like astronomical body that revolves around a star called the Sun once a year.
“It’s 100% indisputable,” Zeldin, an Army veteran, said of the Earth being round.
He then thanked the unidentified man for his service before moving on to another question from a reporter.
Celebrities like basketball star Shaquille O’Neill have sparked controversy by asserting the Earth is flat, a belief that has reportedly spread at an increasing rate in recent years through the modern world despite the evidence to the contrary.
“This is not even a conspiracy theory. The Earth is flat,” Nets star Kyrie Irving said in 2017 while he still played with the Cavaliers.
Irving, whose vaccination beliefs have also attracted criticism, later blamed his misplaced assertion on the “rabbit hole” of YouTube, where videos making pseudo-scientific claims about the Earth have proliferated.
The emergence of a Flat Earther on the gubernatorial campaign trail one day after the attack on Zeldin had some social media users wondering Friday what might come next with months to go until the Nov. 8 vote.
“This election season, man,” Newsday Editorial Board member Mark Chiusano tweeted.