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Paladino’s “Lynch@LorettaLynch” tweet introduces him to America

America met Carl P. Paladino – co-chair of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump’s New York campaign – through a quick tweet-and-delete on Wednesday that renewed the Buffalo developer’s reputation for an occasional rendezvous with racism.

The tweet said the U.S. attorney general, an African-American, should be lynched.

“Lynch @LorettaLynch let a Grand Jury decide,” Paladino tweeted at 11 a.m., in reference to the attorney general.

The tweet was deleted about a half-hour later, and an aide said she had sent it in error. Paladino has a long history of sending racially tinged emails.

But Wednesday’s tweet-and-delete came in the midst of a presidential campaign in which the candidate Paladino supports has himself retweeted items from white supremacists. The Paladino tweet attracted coverage on CNN and the Daily Beast, along with a rebuke from the Stop Trump PAC.

Meanwhile, the head of the Buffalo NAACP called Paladino a racist. Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Paladino and Trump brothers in bigotry. And the Trump campaign and the Republican Party maintained a stony silence 12 days before the start of a Republican convention in Cleveland, where Paladino could play a significant role.

The dust-up started at 11 a.m., when the tweet was posted. Reporters started questioning it almost immediately, prompting a tweet from the Paladino account to a WGRZ reporter, saying: “I work for Carl, I’m new to twitter & tweeted what Carl asked but made mistake of adding Lynch. My bad.”

Reached via phone shortly thereafter, Paladino said that the tweet was a mistake made by his assistant, Jackie O’Bannon.

O’Bannon does not appear to have her own Twitter account, but she told a Buffalo News education reporter more than a year ago that she worked on Paladino’s Twitter feed. Paladino joined Twitter in September 2009 and had posted 1,904 tweets since then.

Although O’Bannon does not seem to have her own Twitter account, she is a relatively consistent user of Facebook, with 12 posts since June 1.

Questioned further about the “Lynch” tweet, Paladino became angry, saying he didn’t care about it. Spewing profanities, Paladino then hung up.

The tweet is an apparent reference to the FBI’s recommendation Tuesday that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted in connection with her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

Lynch has been the subject of controversy ever since Hillary Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, paid a private visit to her airplane on the tarmac of an Arizona airport last week, thereby raising the specter of undue influence on the then-ongoing federal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Lynch announced on Wednesday that Clinton would not be prosecuted. Even before that, the Paladino tweet was noteworthy enough to draw widespread media coverage, including reports from journalists from ABC, the New York Daily News and Newsday.

“Trump supporter tweet appears to call for lynching of Loretta Lynch,” CNN reported on its website.

“Trump Pal: Never Mind My Lynching Tweet,” said the Daily Beast.

And the Stop Trump PAC spread the word by tweeting: “Top Trump surrogate in NY Carl Paladino tweets that AG @LorettaLynch should be lynched.”

Even though the Paladino tweet was quickly deleted, it proved controversial because of the history of lynching in America. A 2015 study by the Equal Justice Initiative found that between 1877 and 1950, 3,959 African-American men were dragged from courthouses and lynched. In many cases, victims were hung in public squares or burned alive.

That being the case, Frank Mesiah, the longtime president of the Buffalo branch of the NAACP, was outraged at the tweet. “It was racist, and typical of something that would come out of the mouth of someone like Paladino,” he said.

Paladino has been dogged by accusations of racism ever since his 2010 Republican campaign for governor of New York, when he drew fire for forwarding an email portraying President Obama and his wife as a pimp and a prostitute, and another showing a group of blacks trying to get out of the path of an airplane, with a caption that included a racial epithet.

And as recently as April, Paladino faced criticism when he told an NPR reporter that angry voters “want the raccoons out of the basement,” a phrase that some perceived as racist.

Mesiah likened Paladino’s quick tweet-and-delete to Trump’s recent delete of a tweet that included a Star of David shape and called Hillary Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever.” The image had previously been posted by a white supremacist.

“It’s very easy to make a ‘mistake’,” Mesiah said of Paladino’s tweet. “But the point is that he got his message out, and that is what he wanted to do. He knows what he was doing. He must think people are awfully stupid.”

Sean England, a Buffalo native who serves as a spokesman for Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton SuperPAC, also took issue with the Paladino tweet.

“Appalling tweet from a @realDonaldTrump surrogate. Paladino promotes the same bigotry as the candidate he supports,” England tweeted.

Paladino has indeed appeared frequently in the media as a Trump surrogate, and he is expected to reprise that role at the GOP convention in Cleveland. Some local Republicans have speculated that Paladino could have a speaking spot at the convention.

Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokesperson, did not respond to two emails seeking comment on the “Lynch” tweet. Similarly, through a spokesman, New York State Republican Chairman Ed Cox declined comment.

Lynch’s press office also did not reply to an email seeking comment regarding the tweet.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com