Former state Republican nominee for governor Carl Paladino, who has been a surrogate for President-elect Donald Trump, was criticized Friday for what he contends was a stab at humor in which he wished President Barack Obama to die of mad cow disease while first lady Michelle Obama lives in Africa.
Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Buffalo developer’s 2010 foe in a nasty race marked by name-calling and similar off-color commentary, called Paladino’s comments “racist, ugly and reprehensible.”
“While most New Yorkers know Mr. Paladino is not to be taken seriously, as his erratic behavior defies any rational analysis and he has no credibility, his words are still jarring,” said Cuomo of Paladino, who has said he may run against Cuomo in 2018. “His remarks do not reflect the sentiments or opinions of any real New Yorker and he has embarrassed the good people of the state with his latest hate-filled rage.”
Hope Hicks, spokeswoman for Trump, said Friday, “Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse.”
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz on Friday called on Paladino to resign from the school board of the Buffalo City School District, where Paladino has been criticized for his often abrasive efforts to improve instruction for inner-city children who he said the schools have failed.
“While the First Amendment of our Constitution protects the right of free speech, no matter how deplorable it may be, there can be no room in our civil discourse for such hate and anger,” Poloncarz said in a statement. “Anyone who has these beliefs is unfit to hold public office and especially unfit to oversee the education of children.”
Paladino’s comments were reported in the Buffalo publication “Artvoice.” In it, Paladino, 70, said he hopes Obama catches the lethal disease after “having relations” with a cow and dies before he is on trial for sedition. As for the first lady, Paladino stated: “I’d like to see her returning to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino, who has raged against what he considers political correctness, didn’t back away from his comments, which he described as a “little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time.”
“It has nothing to do with race,” Paladino said in his response to criticism. “It’s about two progressive elitist ingrates who have hated their country to badly and destroyed its fabric in som many respects in eight years.”
“It’s about them diminishing the respect for their country on the world scene, surrendering its status as the protector of human rights, disgracing the memory of its veterans who gave so much,” Paladino said.
Paladino had been one of Trump’s earliest supporters, his point man in New York, and has been used by Trump as a surrogate in national news interviews. Paladino also has been called to visit Trump at Trump Tower during the president-elect’s transition. Paladino had previously told Newsday that he is certain Trump would endorse a Paladino bid for governor in 2018.