Carl Paladino appeared on National Public Radio on Wednesday morning and described supporters of Donald Trump as people frustrated with government who “want the raccoons out of the basement.”
And so began the latest dust-up between the left-wing blogosphere and the right-wing Buffalo developer.
To liberal bloggers, Paladino’s comment had echoes of time past, when “coons” was a racist terms used to describe African-Americans.
But to Paladino, his comments had no racial overtones and merely echoed a metaphor he saw in a pro-Trump email.
The controversy started when “Morning Edition” host David Greene asked Paladino, a member of Trump’s New York primary campaign team, to respond to Trump critics who say the Republican front-runner “uses so-called ‘scare tactics.’ ”
Greene then tried to ask Paladino for an example of a Trump policy proposal, but Paladino interjected.
“The press has to get over that, OK? If you’re looking to find a flaw or a gaffe, you’re going to find it. In anybody,” Paladino said via cellphone while heading back to Buffalo from Trump’s victory celebration in New York City on Tuesday night.
“The essence of the man is that he’s speaking to the people and he speaks directly to them and he engages them,” Paladino said of Trump.
“People that get on this bus, on the Trump bus, are people that are very, very frustrated with their government as (inaudible). That’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter what kind of person is the exterminator, OK? They want the raccoons out of the basement,” Paladino said.
Greene jumped in immediately.
“We’ll have to stop there. Carl Paladino, thank you very much for joining us,” he said.
Hearing this exchange, the liberal blogosphere predictably went nuts.
“Trump’s Buddy Carl Paladino’s Racist ‘Raccoon’ Slur: Classy!” harrumphed the Crooks and Liars blog.
“Trump’s New York Surrogate Uses Racial Slur To Describe Obama,” read the headline on ThinkProgress.
All of which infuriated Paladino. He wrote an email to the managing editor of ThinkProgress, criticizing the author of the blog’s story on the matter, Aaron Rupar.
“Aaron apparently listened to me on NPR this morning and got all his delicate sensibilities out of sorts and panties bunched up over a reference I made relating to getting the raccoons out of the basement, interpreting it as a racial slur,” Paladino said. “Without calling me, he wrote and published a hit piece on me, illustrating an unforgivable lack of journalistic integrity.”
Asking for a retraction, Paladino noted that the phrase “raccoons in the basement” originated in an email from an unknown 80-year-old author, which Paladino circulated in March, that attempted to explain the Trump phenomenon.
That email seems to have first appeared in January on a blog called Monty Pelerin’s World.
“You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons,” that email said. “Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately so you hire a guy. A pro. You don’t care if the guy smells, you need those raccoons gone pronto and he’s the guy to do it! You don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he voted for Obama, you don’t care if he has plumber’s crack … you simply want those raccoons gone!”
Trump, the email went on, is “an egomaniac” but also the guy who can fix the problem.
Reviewing the origins of the “raccoons in the basement” analogy, Leon H. Wolf, a blogger at Red State – which has been extraordinarily hostile to Trump – defended Paladino.
“Eh,” Wolf wrote. “In the first place, it’s not even clear that he’s referring to Obama. He’s referring to the government as a whole. This, frankly, has been vastly oversold as a mistake on Paladino’s part.”
Then again, Wolf noted that Paladino’s comments became an issue because of his history.
In June 2015, Paladino commented during a political rally in Olean about “damn Asians” and other “foreigners” attending the University at Buffalo.
Paladino also defended a then-Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority commissioner who used a racial epithet to describe several African-American politicians, including Mayor Byron W. Brown.
And his run for governor in 2010, Paladino received national attention for circulating what some considered as racist and sexist emails.
Earlier in Wednesday’s interview with NPR, Paladino described what’s happening in the presidential race as “a political revolution” involving getting rid of “the establishment class” within the Republican Party and ridding Washington, D.C. of “the Washington elite monsters.”
Paladino did not respond to a phone message seeking comment on the episode – which, Wolf predicted, would be the first of many.
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