BUFFALO, N.Y. — A co-chairman of Republican Donald Trump’s New York presidential campaign who publicly insulted Democratic President Barack Obama and his wife has been asked to resign from a local school board.
Millionaire developer Carl Paladino told a Buffalo alternative newspaper last week he wanted to see Obama dead of mad cow disease and Michelle Obama living with a gorilla in Africa. He now says the comments weren’t meant for publication but were nevertheless “inappropriate.”
The wheels are in motion for at least two applications to the New York State Education Department to have Paladino, who was the 2010 Republican candidate for governor, removed from his post, CBS affiliate WIVB reports.
During a special meeting Thursday, the local school board unanimously approved a resolution 6-2 — with Paladino absent — ordering Paladino to resign by Friday afternoon.
Paladino reaffirmed Thursday to WIVB that he would not resign his post. He issued a statement after the board’s vote saying “the Board of Education’s action today is certainly not an illustration of a profile in courage or leadership … I will fight to the end to continue to expose the corruption.”
As a result, the school board’s resolution indicates they will formally petition state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to begin the process of having him removed.
That means, at least two petitions to the state would be in the works for Paladino’s ouster.
Members of the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization said on Wednesday that work to fill out the required paperwork to petition the state was already underway.
Paladino came under fire quickly after his comments appeared in the Dec. 22 issue of Artvoice magazine. Paladino responded to a question about predictions for 2017 with disparaging remarks against President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Paladino said the following day he stood by his comments, and refused to apologize or step down, despite early calls for him to do so.
Earlier this week, Paladino released another statement, apologizing to “the minority community,” but standing by his original statement. He said it was meant in jest, and that it was never intended for publication. He said he meant to send the email to friends, and hit “reply” rather than “forward.” As a result, he said, his comments were sent to Artvoice.
Elia has thus far declined to comment, saying she may be forced to take action and wanted to remain impartial. But a statement from her office Wednesday read: “We are in the process of reviewing all of our options in this unusual situation and will closely watch the actions taken by the Buffalo Board of Education at tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) meeting.”
Earlier Thursday, about 200 people showed up in the cold and wind at Niagara square downtown to rally against Paladino, for what they described as racist and bigoted remarks.
Many of those who showed up came bundled with signs calling for Paladino’s to be removed from the board of education.
Karyn Brady, a Buffalo schools parent, brought her daughter with her to the rally.
“I want to teach her that it’s important to speak out against things that are wrong. And she actually, on her own, said this is just wrong, who says such mean and hateful things?” she said. “There’s been a lot of rhetoric nationally, locally, and it’s really disturbing and I think people need to stand up and say no this is not right. This is not normal. And as a Buffaloian, to stand up and say this is not what Buffalo is about. We are not this.”
The special meeting drew hundreds, who filled the inside of Council Chambers, as well as two additional overflow rooms. The 6-2 vote was expected.
The board members who voted against the resolution were Larry Quinn and Patricia Pierce. That was also anticipated, although each condemned Paladino’s remarks.
Both Quinn and Pierce said they’d rather give Paladino the chance to sincerely apologize to the district and the city.
“I think that he should be asked to come in and not say in apology, ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t work,” Quinn said. “What works is ‘I’m sorry, I’ve learned from it,’ and I want him to address it to every school child in Buffalo. That’s the hard way. And I think it’s much more productive for children to see it.”
All but Pierce disagreed.
“The impact on children of color, especially African-American children, our incalculable,” said board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. “How do we encourage them to inspire them to use their God-given talents too soar, to reach for the stars, when a sitting board member responsible for their education demonstrates such contempt of their role models.”
Following the board’s vote, Paladino issued another statement.