No response from Stefanik on Paladino endorsement status

A New York Congressional candidate endorsed by Rep. Elise Stefanik is facing backlash this week over a social media post alleging that recent mass shootings were false flag attacks meant to take guns away from Americans. Stefanik did not respond to requests for comment Thursday about the status of her endorsement.

Paladino, a Buffalo real estate developer and political campaigner, deleted a post he shared on his Facebook page earlier this week after facing backlash for its unsourced and inaccurate conspiracy theory claims. He has a history of making statements criticized as bigoted and inaccurate.

Stefanik’s press offices did not respond to Enterprise requests for comment on Paladino’s post, her endorsement of his campaign for a House seat and his years of racist writings.

Stefanik’s endorsement

Stefanik announced she was backing Paladino in his campaign for New York’s new 23rd Congressional District on June 3, less than an hour after he announced he was running. At the start of that hour, Rep. Chris Jacobs, a Republican who holds the seat Paladino is now running for, announced he would not seek reelection. Jacobs said he was pressured to drop out by fellow Republicans after he voiced support for an assault weapons ban in the wake of two recent mass shootings.

He said the shooting on May 14 at a Buffalo supermarket, in which a white man from the Southern Tier who believed the far-right “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory drove to a Tops Friendly Market just outside Jacobs’s district with the goal of killing Black people, made him reconsider his stance on guns after the mass shootings.

After Republicans pulled their support of him for his statement, Jacobs said he dropped out to keep his community from being the focus of “negative” media attention on the issue of gun violence and gun control.

Stefanik called Paladino her “friend” in her endorsement.

“Carl is a job creator and conservative outsider who will be a tireless fighter for the people of New York in our fight to put America First to save the country,” Stefanik wrote in a tweet.

Stefanik’s press offices did not respond to a question about why she endorsed Paladino in light of his well-documented past of comments that have been criticized as racist or bigoted.

Paladino told The Hill that Stefanik reached out to him to see if she could endorse him after he announced his campaign.

“She’s a great girl,” Paladino said to The Hill. “She’s got her head right where it belongs when it comes to leading for her people.”

The two have not always been friendly. Paladino has strongly opposed Stefanik in the past. In 2016, he called Stefanik a “fraud,” a “RINO,” said she was a “treacherous sell-out” and tried to get someone to primary her in that year’s election because she didn’t endorse Trump.

Stefanik did not endorse Trump back then, but became a vocal advocate for him during his first impeachment hearing, in his unsuccessful bid for reelection in 2020 and after his reelection loss.

Stefanik’s press offices did not respond to a question about what changed between them where she could now endorse him.

The post

The Facebook post that prompted a backlash this week, which was initially written by a friend of Paladino’s, was shared on Paladino’s Facebook page on June 1, several days before he announced he was running for Congress.

The post, among other conspiracies, claims that mass shootings are reported on by the media to fundraise money for politicians who support gun control.

Paladino initially denied posting the writing, but later admitted he did, though he also claimed to the Buffalo News “I don’t even know how to post on Facebook.” His account has since been deleted.

Paladino’s friend, Jeff Briggs, is a wealth management advisor from Rochester and initially posted the writing on his own Facebook page on May 31. On his page, Briggs also writes about coronavirus vaccine conspiracy theories and writes posts equating Donald Trump supporters to Holocaust victims.

Stefanik’s press offices did not respond to a request for her response to the unsourced conspiracy theories.

Paladino’s history of controversial statements

Paladino has a long history of statements criticized for being racist, transphobic, homophobic, antisemitic, Nazi-friendly and inaccurate.

In 2016, Paladino replied to survey questions from the Buffalo weekly outlet Artvoice to say he wanted then-president Barack Obama to die of mad cow disease. He also wished death on Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarret and wrote of then-First Lady 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.”

After these racist comments were reported on, Paladino claimed they were sent in error and blamed a Barack Obama speech for his “inappropriate” writings.

“All men make mistakes,” he told Artvoice.

Earlier that year, he said then-New York Attorney General Loretta Lynch should be lynched in a now-deleted tweet. Lynch is a Black woman.

In February of 2021, Paladino said he believes New York needs a leader like Adolf Hitler. He was on Buffalo’s “r-House Radio Show,” and was asked by host Peter Hunt how to arouse the population.

Paladino said Hitler aroused and “hypnotized” crowds by screaming epithets.

“I guess that’s the kind of leader we need today,” Paladino said. “We need somebody inspirational. We need somebody that is a doer, has been there and done it.”

Hunt did not ask Paladino to elaborate on this statement and instead asked about deficit spending.

Stefanik told HuffPost on Thursday that Paladino’s statement was taken “out of context” by media.

His full statement can be listened to at https://bit.ly/3QacYJV.

On Thursday, Paladino said he was wrong to bring up Hitler and accused the media of a “new low” for implying that his comment meant he supported the dictator.

“I strongly condemn the murderous atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazi’s (sic), including towards my own Italian family,” he said in a statement.

Paladino was the Republican candidate for governor in the 2010 election. He was criticized then for forwarding racist jokes about Black people to friends from a professional email account. He also was condemned by Jewish groups for calling the state Assembly leader, who was Jewish, “an anti-Christ or a Hitler.”

Paladino also co-chaired Trump’s New York office for his presidential campaign.


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