The co-chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in New York, who wished death on President Obama in 2017, is a member of the Buffalo Board of Education — but that could soon change. There are calls for him to be forced off the board because of vile remarks he has made about the president and first lady.
Carl Paladino, a wealthy Republican businessman who says he is “friends” with Trump, was among a group of New Yorkers asked by the alternative newspaper Artvoice to answer questions about their wish list for the new year.
In response to a question about his biggest wish in 2017, Paladino said he hoped “Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations” with a cow, then dies and is buried in a cow pasture. He also said he hopes Michelle Obama would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino was blasted by elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D); his alma mater, St. Bonaventure University; and others for his remarks. Trump transition team spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said, “Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse.” The transition team did not, however, say whether it was disassociating itself from Paladino.
Paladino has been a member of the Buffalo school board since winning election in 2013. He is known for making highly controversial statements; during his unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial campaign, he was accused of sending graphically racist and sexist emails to some friends.
Calls for Paladino to resign were made by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, as well as Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo). Cuomo (D), who defeated Paladino in the 2010 race, said: “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.”
According to TWC News, Barbara Seals Nevergold, the school board president, said the panel would discuss the controversy at the next meeting. Noting that only state education officials can force Paladino off the panel, she said:
“We have what’s called a Dignity For All Students act. It does not just apply to students. It applies to everyone in the district. It applies to me, every other board member, every staff member. Adults are expected to adhere to that policy and if we’re not adhering to the policy, how in the world can we ask our students to adhere to it?”
According to the Buffalo News, the state commissioner of education can remove a local school board member. Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said she could not comment on the situation because she might be called on to act in this instance. But Betty Rosa, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, issued a statement, saying:
“As adults we are morally bound to ensure both the physical and emotional well-being of our children. All of us serve as role models for our young people. In a time when we should be focused on the issues of respect and unification, I personally find it unacceptable for anyone who touches the lives of our children to speak in this manner . . . This kind of language does not belong within the context of our communities and our schools. Being an American demands we respect the office of the President. That’s what we teach our children in New York State as part of our civic learning, and it’s a lesson that Mr. Paladino apparently needs to review.”
Elia, a veteran educator, became commissioner in New York in 2015 after the abrupt resignation of John King, who is now U.S. education secretary. She was serving as superintendent of Hillsborough County schools in Florida at the time of her appointment.
Thousands of people have signed a petition on Change.org asking Elia to remove Paladino from the board. It says in part:
Carl Paladino has a direct role in shaping education policy in Buffalo, New York. He should no longer be allowed to sit on the board of a majority minority school district. He has proven time and again his own bias won’t allow the business of the Board to proceed without distraction.
There is no explanation in the world that can excuse these comments. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has already called for Mr. Paladino’s resignation. Please add your voice as well, and spread the word.
Tell MaryEllen Elia, NYS Commissioner of Education that Paladino needs to be removed.
Here’s a question: What is taking her so long?