Even Carl Paladino's son wants to distance himself from the former New York Republican gubernatorial candidate's latest controversial remarks about President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
In what appears to be a family split, Ellicott Development Co. CEO William Paladino criticized his father's comments as "disrespectful and absolutely unnecessary."
Writing on the company's official Facebook page and linking to the post directly from the company's website, the company said the elder Paladino's recent comments in Artvoice were "not a reflection of the beliefs and principles of Ellicott Development Company."
The post in full:
We post today to share our formal response to former CEO Carl Paladino’s recent Artvoice comments. Carl’s comments are...
The company sought to separate itself from Carl Paladino, saying he "has not been involved in the day-to-day operations" for "many years now" and "his comments and statements are his alone."
That distinction may prove difficult to draw. Carl Paladino was the company's founder and led the 43-year-old development firm as CEO for decades, until his son took over a few years ago as the father became more active politically, first with the Buffalo Public Schools and then in statewide Republican circles. Carl Paladino remains chairman of the company, which he started in 1973, and is still considered by many to be influential in the firm's overall direction.
As a result, the statement did not appear to convince many on Facebook, as two-thirds of the comments posted in response remained negative as of late Sunday morning, and many seemed to point out contradictions.
One called the statement "laughable" and others said it was "a crock" and "hollow." Several commenters even pointed out that the website still lists Carl Paladino first on its "Key People" page — ironically, right next to a link to the Facebook post criticizing him.
The elder Paladino has been under heavy fire locally for days, since his comments about the Obamas and an aide appeared in a story in the alternative weekly Artvoice, which asked prominent Buffalonians what they wish for 2017.
Paladino's answer: "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."
And responding to another question, about what he would like to see go away, Paladino said, "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."
In an interview Sunday, William Paladino stressed that he doesn't necessarily share all of his father's politics and beliefs, though he agrees "for the most part" with his father's general views on policies and candidates. But he added, "I wouldn't say something like that, and I don't necessarily agree with it, no."
"Obviously, I love my father to death," he said, "but we have a lot of employees and tenancies and people we deal with, and I just want people to know that his comments are not reflective of the overall beliefs and feelings of the overall company."
The Artvoice comments provoked a rapid and vocal uproar across the community, as they have been roundly denounced by political and community leaders, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Democratic party leaders and both current and former Buffalo Public School board members.
Many have called for his resignation or dismissal from the school board, with more than 8,000 people signing an online petition calling for State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to oust him. And a Facebook event is calling for people to protest Paladino at the next School Board meeting on Jan. 18, with hundreds of people so far expressing interest.
The comments are drawing particular attention even internationally because of Paladino's role not only in state politics — he ran for governor against Cuomo in 2010 — but also nationally, where he was actively involved in President-elect Donald Trump's election as co-chairman of Trump's New York campaign. Trump's transition team has called Paladino's remarks "absolutely reprehensible."
Carl Paladino tried to explain and defend his comments, denying they had any connection to race, but not entirely softening his position. In an interview with The Buffalo News on Friday, he cited what he considered Obama's failure to respond adequately to the crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo, derided Obama as the nation's worst president and criticized him for "putting criminals back on the streets."
But even his longtime friend and school board ally, Larry Quinn, said he didn't like what Paladino said.
William Paladino would not comment on the calls for his father to leave the school board. The CEO said he and his sister had spoke to their father about the Artvoice remarks, and William Paladino said his father knew in advance about the company's Facebook post.
"Yeah, we're speaking," he said.