Chris Collins: "I don't have anything to say I'm sorry about"

Passes on St. Joe's NY27 debate

October 30, 2018 - 7:18 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Congressman Chris Collins told WBEN this morning that he will not attend Tuesday's debate at St. Joe's Collegiate Institute.

Collins, speaking with WBEN reporters for the first time since his August 8 indictment, said the debate is not something he thinks would benefit his constituents.

"No, I'm not going to be there," Collins said. "I've done that debate back when I was county executive. This is a different race. It covers eight counties, not just Erie County. I have a feeling it would be a free-for-all if I was there. It would not be a benefit to the kids."

The congressman said on Tuesday that his campaign told them they were not going to debate. However, organizer and moderator Ted Lina said Collins' team never informed them.

"I did not know that," Lina said. "I listened to that interview and called his congressional and campaign office multiple times. One of his congressional staffers told me they'd get back to me. I believe they meant the campaign staff. I never heard from them at all."

Lina said they were preparing for all of the candidates to appear and that the debate will go on as scheduled.

"We don't want to allow one candidate to veto the speech of others," Lina said. "There's a podium there for each of the candidates. We want to give our students the opportunity to hear a real exchange of ideas as opposed to sound bytes and attack ads."

Federal authorities indicted the congressman on insider trading charges and for lying to the FBI. Collins reportedly gave inside information about a failed drug trial to his son, Cameron, who then sold his stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics, saving thousands of dollars. Collins did not sell any of his stock.

The congressman reaffirmed that this race is about keeping the 27th congressional district in the hands of republicans. 

Collins said the narrative of him not running a normal campaign is not true and that he's been out in the community meeting with constituents in his offices. Often times, politicians will alert members of the media that they are attending an event. Collins often did that ahead of his indictment, though he hasn't since.

"I'm doing my job pretty much the same as I always have," Collins said.

WBEN's Susan Rose pressed the congressman, saying that he hasn't held media conferences and did not return WBEN's calls until Tuesday.

"Again, I've met with The Buffalo News," he responded. "I've had interviews on Channel 4 and others. That's simply not the case. I'll talk to you every morning if you'd like."

When asked if he was sorry about all that has happened, Collins stated, "I don't even know what you mean by that....I don't have anything to say I'm sorry about".  Collins calls the charges contained in a 13 count indictment against him "meritless".

Collins said he understands the conflict that many republican voters have in his district, but he noted that in the United States you are innocent until proven guilty and that he'll have his day in court in 2020. 

"Certainly through all of next year, I'll continue to represent everyone as I always have," Collins said. 

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