For the second time in a week, Republican congressional hopeful Carl P. Paladino is explaining controversial remarks unearthed by a media watchdog group, this time noting Adolf Hitler's ability as an "inspirational" leader.
Media Matters, a left-leaning nonprofit group frequently critical of conservative outlets like Fox News, reported on its website Thursday that Paladino told a WBEN Radio program last year that he had listened to a recent broadcast about "Adolf Hitler and how he aroused the crowds."
"And he would get up there screaming these epithets and these people were just – they were hypnotized by him," Paladino told WBEN host Peter Hunt on Feb. 13, 2021. "That's, I guess, I guess that's the kind of leader we need today. We need somebody inspirational. We need somebody that is a doer, has been there and done it.”
Paladino, who is facing a challenge from state Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy this year for the party nomination to succeed the retiring Rep. Chris Jacobs, R-Orchard Park, told The Buffalo News Thursday he believes the German people "just got in line" behind Hitler before and during World War II because of the "pretty intense following he developed."
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He also sought to clarify his remarks, insisting he was not praising Hitler during the WBEN interview, but when asked about the need to inspire voters, was addressing the Nazi dictator's popularity and ability to entice an entire nation to follow him.
"Hitler was a very popular person; the popularity was something we never saw in America," he told The News on Thursday. "That had nothing to do with praising him. You look for someone to move an entire population. I was just using that as an example.
"They picked it up and continued to make a mess of it," he added of Media Matters.
Paladino acknowledged he should have chosen a different example to illustrate his point.
"I should have used Churchill," he said, referring to Britain's World War II leader.
Later he issued a statement, saying "any implication that I support Hitler or any of the sick and disgusting actions of the Nazi regime is a new low for the media."
"The context of my statement was in regards to something I heard on the radio from someone else and was repeating," he said. "I understand that invoking Hitler in any context is a serious mistake and rightfully upsets people. I strongly condemn the murderous atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazis.”
He also said his original interview pointed to Hitler and his activities as examples of "some things in this world that we must all be angry about."
"During World War II, all decent people were angry at Hitler's extermination of 6 million Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz," he said then. "During the days of the civil rights battle here in the United States, all decent people were angry at the brutal mistreatment of Black people down south.”
Nevertheless, the latest revelation is drawing reaction. Keith Wofford, the Buffalo native who ran for state attorney general in 2018, strongly condemned his fellow Republican late Thursday.
"Carl Paladino is a racist," Wofford said. "Not 'racially insensitive,' not 'unsophisticated'; a straight-up, old-school racist. And I know this from my personal experiences in 2018, carrying the party’s banner in New York State."
Wofford urged the Republican Party to reject Paladino should he be elected to Congress, and deny him committee assignments.
"Carl Paladino does not belong in Congress," he said. "If he wins the primary, I hope he loses in November."
This is the second time this week that Media Matters reported on Paladino's penchant for controversial remarks. The outlet found that on his Facebook page, Paladino shared a post linking recent mass killings in Buffalo and Texas to "false flag" ideas that claim government involvement in similar tragedies.
The original post contended that Democrats aim "to revoke the 2nd amendment and take away guns," and claimed "the Texas shooter was receiving hypnosis training" apparently under the direction of the CIA, according to the Media Matters report.
At first, Paladino denied responsibility for the post. But on Wednesday he told The News he had subsequently recalled that he included on his Facebook page the writings of a Rochester friend.
Paladino's latest difficulty follows a long-established pattern. In December 2016, he referred to then-first lady Michelle Obama as a man and said in an Artvoice piece he would like her to be "let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla." At a 2015 rally, he decried the presence of "damn Asians" and other "foreigners" at the University at Buffalo and other state colleges.
And in March 2019, he was denounced by officials for distributing an email suggesting riots in Paris resulted from a city filled with nonwhite Muslim immigrants and refugees.