The majority of the Buffalo Board of Education would like to be rid of member Carl Paladino, who, in addition to acting as the New York chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, recently told a local newspaper that, among other things, he’d like to see President Obama catch “mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford,” while Michelle Obama “[returns] to being a male and [is] let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” On Thursday, the board voted 6-2 to demand Paladino’s resignation, with members calling him “unambiguously racist,” “morally repugnant,” and a person with “a pattern of racist and negative behaviors” whose words would have an “incalculable” impact on the children of color who constitute the majority of Buffalo’s public-school students.
The two board members who voted against the measure called on Paladino to publicly apologize instead. One of those detractors, a Paladino ally and board member, Patti Pierce, also managed to stir up her own controversy in trying to defend him. Per the Huffington Post:
Pierce said she hoped the people in Buffalo could show Paladino some forgiveness for his comments and “take a page out of the horrific massacre that happened in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine innocent people in a house of worship were slain by a hateful, hate-filled man.”
The comparison drew gasps from the audience and was too much for one woman, who left shouting that it was offensive to use the murdered African-American congregation members in this situation.
Earlier this week, Paladino (who didn’t attend the vote) unsuccessfully tried to explain away his remarks, which appeared in a survey of people’s wishes for 2017, by saying that he’d been “wired up” and “made a mistake” by trying to “say something as sarcastic and hurtful as possible about the people so responsible for the hurt and suffering of so many others.” He then admitted that he’d only intended to forward his rantings to some friends, not the newspaper’s editors. “I certainly am not a racist,” he added, laughably.
If Paladino doesn’t comply with the resolution’s demand that he resign within 24 hours — he’s already said that he won’t step down — New York’s education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, will have to decide whether to remove him. According to the Buffalo News, that process could take up to eight months, as Elia will have to “weigh the board’s arguments against Paladino’s First Amendment right to free speech.” “Once we receive an application for removal, we will review it as quickly as possible. We continue to review all of our options,” said an Elia spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Paladino issued a statement saying, “The Board of Education’s action today is certainly not an illustration of a profile in courage or leadership.” He went on to accuse his colleagues of seeking his ouster in order to prevent him from “exposing [their] corruption.” “It’s going to be a very combative year,” he added. Oh, we know.
This post has been updated throughout.