The public outcry over Carl Paladino's published remarks about the Obamas is growing, with calls for a boycott against his businesses and a renewed call for his ouster from the Buffalo School Board. Paladino, meanwhile, is refusing to give up his seat on the school board and, in an apology sent to Artvoice, says the comments were intended only for his friends and were accidentally sent to the weekly magazine.
Paladino triggered a wide public outrage with his comments, published in the December 22 edition of Artvoice, as part of the weekly edition's holiday "wish list." Paladino's "wishes" included the death of President Barack Obama by mad cow disease and for the transformation of First Lady Michelle Obama into a male who would then live with a gorilla in Africa.
The co-director of the Partnership for the Public Good, Sam Magavern, suggests Buffalo's business community and general public need to send the message that enough is enough.
"This is not just about these remarks," Magavern said. "It's about a very long, extensive history of talking about African-Americans, talking about Muslims, talking about women, talking about lesbian and gay people, talking about Asians. This is not an isolated incident."
The group Open Buffalo, which in 2015 called for Paladino's ouster from the school board, renewed its call for his removal Tuesday morning.
Paladino is best known for Ellicott Development Company, which he founded in 1973. He is identified by the company's website as its Chairman. William Paladino, who is the company's current CEO, released a statement on December 24 indicating that his father's comments do not represent the opinions of the company. The younger Paladino suggested that his father has not been involved in daily operations of the company "for many years now."
The former president of the regional NAACP is questioning William Paladino's claims and is challenging the company to prove them true. Frank Mesiah told WBFO he has doubts that the elder Paladino is not involved in day-to-day operations.
Ellicott Development's holdings include eight hotels, numerous residential rental properties and an estimated two and a half million square feet of commercial space in the Buffalo area. They are also identified on their website as the "official hotel partner of the Buffalo Bills."
When asked about the potential major economic blow a full boycott would generate, Magavern called it "deservedly so."
"When you've got a juke box that plays nothing but really bad songs, it's time to stop putting quarters in it," he replied.
"I think people should stop enabling him by doing business with him."
Paladino, in addition to his current role as a Buffalo School Board member, previously ran for governor and was one of President-Elect Donald Trump's strongest and most active campaigners in New York State. Trump's campaign gained notoriety for a tone many considered offensive and inappropriate. Others, say it was a push back against political correctness. It raises the question whether the PPG's call for a boycott may instead encourage some to continue or initiate business with Paladino as a means to spite the movement.
"I think most people do not believe in hatred. They don't believe in prejudice and bigotry and I think they'll understand the idea that we shouldn't be supporting that," Magavern answered. "In some ways you don't want to give these kind of comments more attention than they deserve but, on the other hand, it's not like he's just some private individual out there."
"He's a very powerful and influential person."