News

Politician's wife on viral video: Brush off was because he's blind

Oct. 18, 2013 at 5:46 PM ET

Video: After he lost a special Senate election to Democrat Cory Booker, New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan gave a concession speech during which he brushed off his wife as she tried to console him. TODAY’s Willie Geist reports.

When New Jersey Republican candidate Steve Lonegan lost the Senate race to Cory Booker on Wednesday night, actions spoke louder than words.

Lonegan's concession speech went viral after he was seen brushing away his wife Lorraine, who stood behind him at the podium, rubbing his back.

But his wife said Friday that her husband had not meant to brush her off, and that she was hurt by the video going viral.

She said her husband, who is visually impaired, thought he was motioning to an aide who touched his arm to give him a signal.

"All through this campaign, we have been assisting him with different hand signals and we were assisting him greatly during the concession speech," she told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "He felt it could have been one of his campaign staffers telling him which way to move and he was already there (at the podium) so he brushed it away."

Lorraine Lonegan told the paper that as a teacher of small children, she was particularly hurt that the video went viral, because she thought it was disparaging towards her husband's condition.

"I try to teach them to be kind to each other and respect each other and this feels like a bullying tactic against someone with a disability," she said.

But not everyone believed her story. Skeptical radio hosts at New Jersey's 101.5 talked with Lorraine on Friday afternoon, and questioned her about her account, arguing it didn't make sense that her husband would think an aide was directing him in a different direction away from the podium if he was already in the middle of his speech.

"He did not know that that was my hand that I was putting on his back in that manner," she told them, maintaining that her husband was confused because her gesture was similar to the cues his staff uses to direct him.

When asked why she would touch him in a way he might have confused with an aide's signal, Lorraine blamed the heat of the moment.

"I'm a very hands-on person, I'm a very emotional, loving, caring person," she said. "We were in the midst of an extremely emotional moment."

TOP