Free Daily Headlines

Politics

Set your text size: A A A

'Never Trump' tape 'has been doctored more times than Pelosi's eyes,' Bennett says

Lynda Bennett speaks to supporters on Saturday at the Doubletree hotel in Asheville. Lynda Bennett speaks to supporters on Saturday at the Doubletree hotel in Asheville.

Celebrating an endorsement from the popular incumbent she hopes to replace, Lynda Bennett is also doing damage control over a ‘never Trump’ comment caught on tape.

 

* * * * *

Bennett, a real estate agent from Maggie Valley who is seeking the Republican nomination for the open 11th Congressional District seat, is touting the prized endorsement from U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows while working at the same time to counter a 2016 audiotape in which she appears to declare herself a “never Trumper.”
Bennett held a campaign event on Saturday to celebrate the endorsement from Meadows and fellow Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan. During her remarks, she addressed “the attacks you’ve seen on the ads.”
“When the recording was made, the audio that you’ve been hearing, we were in our headquarters, we had a small work session, we were going to create a palm card,” she said, referring to fliers volunteers hand out at polling places. “We know who the candidates were going to be, they had all been elected in the primary. I thought this would take about five minutes. Well, that wasn’t the case because these … factions came in, they were uninvited, and they resisted every single person that was on that palm card. And I finally got frustrated and I said, ‘You guys just need to go over to the Democrats’ side because they agree with you. They don’t like our candidates either.’
“But that wasn’t good enough," she went on. "I finally said, ‘You remind me of the never-Trumpers. We have elected Trump as our Republican candidate. He deserves our support and you guys are acting just like never Trumpers. And I said, ‘And this is what I have been hearing.’”
According to Bennett, her frustration led to her comments describing never Trumpers. On the 45-second tape, she says: “I’m a Never Trump person. I don’t want Trump.”
“You don’t?” a male voice says. “You need to leave then.”
“I want him taken off that palm card,” Bennett says. “I’m not helping you guys. That’s what I’m telling you. Never Trump is a big movement and you guys are denying it and you’re acting like I can be ‘never this person’ or I can be ‘never that person’ but you can’t be never Trump. You can’t be never Trump. Well, I’m never Trump. So now what? What do you do? Go tell me to help Trump get elected and you want me to organize a hundred people to come and work the polls to help get Trump elected. Well, I am not for him. I am against him. Never Trump. Never Trump.”
Bennett said at her campaign event Saturday morning that “the audio dispels itself.”
“The fact is the audio has been doctored. It’s been doctored more times than Nancy Pelosi’s eyes,” she said, prompting laughter and hoots from the gathering.
Ken Henson, the chairman of the Haywood County Republican Party, supported Bennett’s account of the meeting. According to Henson, Bennett told the people objecting to some of the down-ballot palm card endorsements — “because these guys did like Trump” — “What if they were saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to put Trump on there? Never Trump, never Trump,’ and that’s how this came about. Because she was protecting them. No. 1, she was protecting Jim Davis,” who was running in 2016 for re-election to the state Senate.

Bennett account ‘not very factual’

Monroe Miller, who has clashed repeatedly with the leadership of the Haywood County Republican Party, said he made the tape that is now being widely circulated among Republican activists. In an interview Sunday, Miller said he made the recording at a party meeting in September 2016 that got contentious over his attempts to tape the proceedings. (Miller said that after Henson ordered him to stop recording, another man told Miller to “back off or else there will be blood running out of both your ears.”)
Miller said Sunday he had been following Bennett’s reaction to the tape in recent days.
“I’ve seen some of her attempts to redefine what happened at that meeting and they’re not very factual,” he said. In his recollection, there was no doubt that Bennett at the time was anti-Trump.
“My view is she was a Ted Cruz person and her outburst was spontaneously generated by an event that happened about two minutes prior,” he said. “It got pretty wild there. Lynda Bennett was a Ted Cruz person. As I recall she had Ted Cruz signs. She was not happy with Trump.”
Asked whether she was expressing her own opinion and not mocking “never Trumpers,” Miller said: “She said it spontaneously. Nobody else at that meeting ever brought that up. If you listen to the whole context of the tape, the purpose was Lynda Bennett wanted to come in and organize people to get out to the precincts and vote. The first part of the meeting was intending to get lists from people and then the second part just went south after the threat was given to me and that’s when she popped up with her never Trump thing.
“As I recall she had been a Ted Cruz person, held signs for Ted Cruz, and then everything she’s saying now is I would say disingenuous.”
Miller acknowledged that Bennett became a Trump supporter in the general election and that she worked for Trump.
“I forget at which point she became a Trump supporter but it sure wasn’t at that meeting,” he said. “That was Sept. 22, 2016.”
Pat Bennett, Lynda’s husband, said his wife worked tirelessly for Trump’s election. He was at the Freedom Caucus campaign event on Saturday. He said he was standing in the back of the room during the September 2016 meeting.
“I live with her and every day she was out on these corners holding those signs up and working for that man like crazy,” he said. “And when I was sitting there (in the 2016 meeting), she was so angry that she could just hardly contain herself that they were trying to remove people” from the palm card. “She was the ultimate Trumper. Before the (primary) election everybody was thinking about different candidates and stuff but, boy, once he got the nomination she jumped on board with both feet.”

Davis ‘running a positive campaign’

Davis, a five-term state senator, is thought to be among the frontrunners in the 12-candidate primary for the Republican nomination. In an interview, he said he’s not responsible for sending the audio out.
“I am familiar with it but that’s about all that I know,” he said Saturday afternoon in a call from a gun show he was attending in Franklin. “I talked to people that said it was accurate and talked to people that said that it wasn’t. I have no first-hand knowledge so I just don’t know. I’m running a positive campaign and I’m not getting into any negative comments about any of my opponents. I learned long ago that you don’t elevate yourself by stepping on somebody else. It’s worked for me so far. I’ve been elected eight times.”
“Nobody in my campaign and certainly not me” is responsible for the dissemination of the recording, Davis added. “I’ve received a copy of those from different people and I have no idea who’s sending it out. If there’s anybody associated with my campaign at all then they don’t do it with my blessing. I’ve asked several of them and I told them that I don’t want to do any of that so I presume that they honor my request.”

‘I was unashamedly’ supporting Trump

In her remarks Saturday celebrating Meadows’ endorsement, Bennett repeatedly pledged her support for the Freedom Caucus principles and for Trump.
“I was open in supporting (Trump). I was unashamedly supporting him,” she said. “In fact, I invited other people to come support him with me. ‘Come out on the street corner and hold signs with me.’ Once he was elected, we were so excited.”
She helped organize an inaugural ball in Waynesville. The party executive committee elected her secretary.
“These people would not have elected me to that position if I was not a supporter of President Trump and if my activities during the election had not justified that position,” she said.
She urged her supporters to “answer honestly” if friends and family ask her about the tape and to respond on her behalf on social media.
“I’m going to continue supporting President Trump,” she said. “I know we’re not going to win every battle. I don’t think you expect us to win every battle. What you expect is for us to fight the battle.”