Sharp criticism over Carl P. Paladino's comments about President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama continued to grow over the weekend, with calls for him to resign or be removed from the Buffalo School Board.
James M. Sampson, former School Board president, called the remarks "inappropriate and reprehensible." He said Paladino should resign and, if he doesn't, the board should take steps to oust him.
"What Carl Paladino said was not terribly out of character for him, but it was extreme by anyone's standards," he said Saturday.
Larry Quinn, a current School Board member and friend of Paladino, said he wanted to keep his reaction brief until he spoke with Paladino about the episode, but disapproved of Paladino's language.
"I don't like the words he used," he said. "I don't want to speculate at this time about what may happen. I'm not ready to jump in that pool yet. Carl's a friend, and I will give him an opportunity to talk to me about this."
Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, called for his ouster.
"Carl Paladino's comments about President Obama and the first lady are repulsive and unacceptable," she said in a statement released Saturday night. "As an elected official and member of the School Board, he has a responsibility to advocate for progress and the future of our students. Carl's openly divisive, racist and hateful comments will not be tolerated and should be grounds for his removal from elected office."
Paladino's comments appeared in a story in the alternative weekly Artvoice about what prominent Buffalonians wish for 2017.
"Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Hereford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her," he said in response to a question about what he would most like to happen in 2017.
"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," he said in response to a question about what he would like to see go away in 2017.
In an interview Friday with The Buffalo News, Paladino said he made the comments because of what he considered Obama's ineffective response to the crisis in Aleppo. He called Obama the worst president in the history of the United States and criticized him for "putting criminals back on the streets."
Paladino also released a written statement arguing that his comments had more to do with a political movement among the middle class than with race.
In the statement, Paladino wrote, "It has nothing to do with race. That's the typical stance of the press when they can't otherwise defend the acts of the person being attacked."
"It's about two progressive elitist ingrates who have hated their country so badly and destroyed it's fabric in so many respects in eight years," he continued.
"And yes, it’s about a little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time," he wrote at the end of the statement. "Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don’t like my answer."
Paladino said in a radio interview on WBEN that he would not step down. But there remains a growing clamor for him to resign or be removed.
By Saturday evening, more than 8,000 people had signed an online petition calling for MaryEllen Elia, the state commissioner of education, to oust Paladino from a School Board that oversees a diverse district where the majority of students are African-American. Meanwhile, a Facebook event is inviting people to protest Paladino at the next School Board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18, with about 600 people and counting expressing interest.
Paladino's comments about the Obamas have received international attention because of his role as a co-chairman in Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump's New York State election campaign. Trump's transition team characterized the remarks as "absolutely reprehensible" and having no place in the public discourse.
Edward Cox, chairman of the state GOP, declined to comment Saturday, saying it was Christmas Eve and he would talk on Monday.
Democratic officials, including Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo), have called on Paladino to resign. Others, such as State Democratic Executive Director Basil Smikle and Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner, denounced the remarks.
The District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC) of the Buffalo Public Schools also condemned Paladino's comments and called for his resignation or removal. The group contends Paladino is in violation of the section of the School Board Member Code of Conduct that stipulates that a board member's "first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the students attending the public schools.”
"It is time for the NYS Department of Education to begin the process to remove Mr. Paladino from the Board of Education. We expect our representatives to be role models and advocates for Buffalo students. Mr. Paladino continues to be an embarrassment to himself, the Public Schools, and the City of Buffalo," DPCC representative Kevin Lafferty said in a statement.
Robert M. Bennett, former local Board of Regents representative, who has worked with Paladino on school issues, declined to comment on Saturday, saying it would be inappropriate.