In an article in Artvoice, Buffalo developer, school board member and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is quoted as saying in 2017 he would like to see President Barack Obama catch mad cow disease and die.
Responding to what he would like to see go away in 2017, Paladino responded: “Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Given the chance to walk back these execrable remarks, Paladino said, “Yeah, I’m not politically correct … they asked what I want for Christmas and I told them.”
This is not the first time Paladino has made such repellent comments about President Obama. In April 2010, the millionaire acknowledged forwarding emails, including images of bestiality and derogatory characterizations of the president, including one offering a video clip of African tribesman dancing that characterized the video as “Barack Obama’s inauguration rehearsal.”
So what has been the reaction from the president-elect? After all, Paladino is a personal friend, longtime supporter, and former co-chair of Trump’s 2016 New York campaign. According to Trump team spokesperson Jessica Ditto, “Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse.”
Strong words. But why did they not come emphatically from Trump himself?
Immediately after the election a more sober and contemplative Trump made a plea for national unity. “I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. … For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country,” he said.
What happened to a call for unity? Rather than make a declarative statement about why Paladino’s comments were so savage, spiteful and shuddersome, we get passivity and boilerplate statements from surrogates. Trump would rather maintain a political ally and major donor than show the nation that he is categorically opposed to racism, bigotry and hate speech. Simply put: Trump’s lack of response was hardly surprising but still pathetic.
Paladino may be boorish, erratic and out of touch with reality, but his words remain extremely hurtful and damaging. Why not disavow him? Why not take advantage of this opportunity to mend race relations rather than sever them more?
Does Trump really believe that what Paladino said is immoral? Does he even care?
(George “Casey” Payne is a professor at Finger Lakes Community College and founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International.)