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Oct 4, 2016 3:21 PM

Ayotte tells NH1 News: 'I would not hold out Trump or Clinton as good examples'

NH1 News Political Director

HUDSON – Sen. Kelly Ayotte told NH1 News and other news organizations that she “misspoke” during the first prime-time general election debate in her re-election campaign when she said that she would “absolutely” point to Donald Trump as a role model for children.

“I misspoke and certainly I hope that all of our children aspire to run for president but I would not hold out either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as good examples and I wouldn’t hold them out as examples of role models for my children,” Ayotte said on Tuesday.

Ayotte’s comment on Monday night was the most talked about moment in the Republican U.S. senator’s showdown with her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Early in the hour long face-off between the two candidates at New England College that was hosted by NECN, Ayotte was asked if she would point children towards the GOP presidential nominee as a role model. Ayotte, who’s kept her distance from Trump and has repeatedly said for months that she’ll vote for him but is not endorsing him, answered “I would tell a child to absolutely aspire to be their best and aspire to be president.”

Asked again by the panelist, WKXL radio host Chris Ryan, if she specifically would point to Trump as a role model, Ayotte answered “I think that certainly there many role models that we have and I believe he can serve as president and so absolutely I would do that.”

The Hassan campaign, state and national Democrats, and pro-Democratic outside groups quickly attacked Ayotte over saying “absolutely.” On Tuesday morning the Hassan campaign released a web video that showcased the now infamous clip and highlighted some of Trump’s low-lights over the past couple of weeks.

And in a statement, Hassan said that Ayotte’s words speak “for itself and was a revealing moment that she cannot take back."

Asked by NH1 News if she’s comfortable voting for Trump as President even if she doesn’t consider him a role model for children, Ayotte said “just like voters here in New Hampshire, in this election there really are two choices of who could potentially become president. I’ve said that I plan to vote for him but I’ve had disagreements with him on a multitude of issues.

And asked by NH1 News if it’s frustrating to answer repeated questions about Trump, Ayotte answered “I have to tell you, you all like to ask these questions much than average voters do. And the people of New Hampshire want to know what are we going to do to get done on our heroin epidemic, on good jobs, on our national security challenges that are facing our state. But I have a lot of confidence that the people of New Hampshire are going to look at who’s the best person to serve as their voice in the Senate and who will stand up for them no matter who’s in the Oval Office.”

Ayotte took questions moments before touring a McDonalds in Hudson and working alongside the employees, including manning the drive-thru window. Her Senate office told reporters the visit gave Ayotte “a first-hand perspective as they work the lunchtime shift.”

Moments before Ayotte was asked about Trump as a role model during Monday night’s debate, she criticized Hassan as being in “lockstep” with the Democratic presidential nominee.

“This is a big difference between Gov. Hassan and I. First of all I plan to vote for Donald Trump but I have stood up to him on multiple occasions, whereas Gov. Hassan is lockstep with Secretary Clinton. And that’s not right for New Hampshire. We need someone who’s going to stand up no matter who’s in the Oval Office to fight on behalf of the people of New Hampshire,” Ayotte declared.

"Look at what Secretary Clinton did with her emails. We haven’t heard Gov. Hassan call her out on those issues at all," Ayotte added.

The NECN debate was the second of six between Ayotte and Hassan. The two candidates will face-off on Oct. 27th in an NH1 News debate.

The Ayotte-Hassan race is one of the most high profile, expensive, and negative U.S. Senate campaigns in the country.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte works the drive-thru window at a McDonalds in Hudson on Oct. 4, 2016

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