A friend of President-elect Donald Trump is standing by statements he made to an alternative weekly newspaper in Buffalo about President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who he said he hopes "die" and get "let loose" in Africa.
Carl Paladino was among many people who told Artvoice their wishes for 2017, but the response of the New York developer and onetime candidate for New York Governor has stirred the most controversy by far. For 2017, Paladino said he wishes for President Obama to die of mad cow disease after "being caught having relations with a Herford," referring to the Hereford cow breed.
The co-chair of Trump's New York campaign also named the First Lady in his widely condemned comments. "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," Paladino said.
Paladino stood by his words in a statement to the Washington Post, denying that they were racist and rejecting the notion that they were bad for Trump. "It has nothing to do with race,” Paladino said. “It’s about 2 progressive elitist ingrates who have hated their country so badly and destroyed its fabric in so many respects in 8 years."
Paladino also told the Post that he is "active" with the president-elect. “I don't think Mr. Trump particularly cares what I have to say,” he said. “He knows me. I was active with him, and I still am active with him.”
A spokesperson for Trump denounced Paladino's words in a statement reported by the New York Times. “Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse,” said Trump spokesperson Jessica Ditto.
Others have denounced Paladino's remarks, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called the words "racist, ugly, and reprehensible" in a statement. "While most New Yorkers know Mr. Paladino is not to be taken seriously, as his erratic behavior defies any rational analysis and he has no credibility, his words are still jarring," Cuomo said.
In several interviews after the release by Artvoice, Paladino has said he meant to cast light on the president's "transgressions" and called them "old style humor."
“I did it to wake people up; I did it to get people’s attention,” Paladino told the Times.