WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik again claimed this week that her Democrat opponent, Tedra Cobb, wants to ‘defund the police.’ And Stefanik said Cobb herself has said so on calls to her supporters.
Cobb flatly denies saying any such thing. Asked to provide proof, the Stefanik campaign produced no audio or video record in which Cobb makes any statement about defunding police.
Stefanik is the incumbent Republican congresswoman representing northern New York; Cobb is her Democrat challenger.
Stefanik’s continuing claim about Cobb and defunding comes during a summer of protests, some of which have turned violent. The protests have led to calls to change the way policing is done, and in some cases, to take money from the police and spend it on social programs.
In Watertown Wednesday for a Republican political event backing police, Stefanik said “There is a choice this election cycle. I am proud to have the support of law enforcement; my opponent has a record of smearing law enforcement.
“She wants to defund the police. I am proud to defend the police. She has sided with the rioters and looters.”
Asked by reporters why she continues to say Cobb supports defunding the police when Cobb has denied it, Stefanik said Cobb “has said she supports redirecting funding, and redirecting funding, if you ask any government program, when someone says redirecting funds, that means defunding a portion of your program.”
Stefanik then made a more explicit claim: she said Cobb has supported redirecting money away from police, during phone calls with supporters.
“The context was, as she’s having Zoom calls across the district, she has said she publicly supports redirecting funding,” Stefanik said.
Reached Thursday, Cobb denied multiple times that she has ever called for redirecting money from police.
“No I have not,” Cobb said. “What I have said is we should have more funding. Unfortunately, Elise Stefanik has chosen to demagogue this issue.”
Cobb said she supports more money for social agencies, not taking money from police for those agencies.
“It’s not an either or. It’s about supporting the police so they can do what they do best, and also funding our community service agencies and providers so they can support the work of the police,” Cobb said.
7 News asked the Stefanik campaign to provide proof of Stefanik’s specific claim that Cobb has supported defunding police, and talked about it during calls with supporters.
The campaign responded with screen shots of Cobb supporter social media that are critical of law enforcement; arguments that Cobb supports Joe Biden and a Democrat-backed police reform bill, and that both would take money from police; and a 16 second YouTube clip uploaded Thursday, which appears to be from a Cobb call with supporters.
In the call, a female voice says “Thank you. The next question we have is from John Riles, and that is “What steps are you taking to re-imagine the police force?”
Cobb responds “You know, we really need to think seriously about funding and our priorities...” And the clip ends. Nowhere does Cobb say anything about defunding police or diverting money from police.