Donald Trump was lambasted after last week’s release of a 2005 video of him bragging about groping women.
Now, Carl Paladino, Trump’s New York state co-chairman, is taking some heat for his comments in defense of the Republican presidential nominee.
An online petition this week called for Paladino’s removal from the Buffalo Board of Education for dismissing Trump’s remarks, as reported by the media, as “locker room talk” and something “all men do, at least all normal men.”
“That’s the way men talk,” Paladino told The Buffalo News on Sunday. “Call it locker room talk, but women talk that way; men talk that way.”
Five of Paladino’s fellow board members stopped short of calling for his removal from the board, but the five -- all women -- signed a statement Wednesday that admonished Paladino and said Buffalo students “deserve to have representatives who will oppose those who maliciously degrade and demean groups of individuals.”
It was signed by Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold and board members Sharon Belton-Cottman, Theresa Harris-Tigg , Hope Jay and Jennifer Mecozzi. Nevergold read portions of the statement at the Board of Education meeting.
“We call on Board member Paladino to acknowledge that words matter and that our students are watching and listening to what we say and do,” the statement read, “that Board members have an obligation to hold themselves to the same standards we have for students.”
Paladino defended himself Wednesday.
He said he didn’t condone Trump’s remarks, but felt the media was making too much of the comments, which pale in comparison to the sexual transgressions of former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached by Congress after lying about an affair with an intern.
“My words at no time supported the context of what he was saying,” Paladino told the board. “All I said is those words that came out of his mouth were commonly used by women and men to express their sexual prowess.”
Paladino also said the online petition was wrong to portray his comments as supporting sexual assault or rape.
“At no time did I comment or support that sexual assault or rape was appropriate,” Paladino said. “That’s insane.”
At one point in the meeting, Paladino had a heated exchange with Mecozzi, who expressed frustration that he was pulling the board and district into these issues.
“I have the right to speak as any American has the right to speak,” Paladino told Mecozzi. “I did not speak as a board member, I spoke as an individual.”
Roughly 50 protesters showed up before Wednesday’s board meeting at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, to call for Paladino’s dismissal.
“There’s just this growing outrage over the things he says and the things he does,” said Whitney Crispell, who organized the protest. “He’s offended a lot of people.”
The statement read by Nevergold was just the latest twist in a longstanding feud between Paladino and the board president, who fall on opposite sides of a divided school board and have both previously attempted to have each other removed from office.
In November 2013, Paladino filed two separate petitions with then-Education Commissioner John King seeking Nevergold’s removal for neglecting her duties and illegally occupying the office. King rejected both of the petitions in 2014.
That same year, a city resident and Nevergold supporter asked King to remove Paladino for creating havoc and tension on the board. King also rejected that petition.
Then, in 2015, Nevergold and her allies on the board petitioned Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove Paladino for making offensive and racist comments, which they said distracted from the board’s regular business.
Paladino on Wednesday, over this latest issue, threatened to sue Nevergold for defamation.
“Any continued posting, emailing or further communication by Ms. Nevergold or others of the untrue statements will be met by appropriate legal action,” he wrote to her in a recent e-mail.
But, as in the past, Nevergold seemed unlikely to back off.
“Your continual intimidation and harassment is what should be called into question,” Nevergold responded.