State Assemblymember Sean Ryan, joined by several local community and religious leaders, delivered a public rebuke Thursday of businessman and former political candidate Carl Paladino. At issue is an email he distributed, an email Ryan and others say amounts to hate speech.
The email in question is headlined "19 Pictures From Hell (Formerly Called Paris, the Capital of France)" and features an account by "neutral Czech tourists" who suggest France is being "destroyed" upon being overrun by people of color and people of Muslim faith.
The supposed tourists complain that upon arriving at the Northern Station, there was litter and also "not a white Frenchman." The email contains several photos potraying people of color on various streets, scenes of litter, a man praying on a mat aboard a subway, a black man eating fast food on public transportation and another urinating on a subway floor (which, upon closer inspection, is actually a New York City subway train).
The message ends by asking the question "Is America next?"
"As the world is mourning a bigoted killing in New Zealand, Carl Paladino is sending out messages that you should fear Muslims, that you should fear immigrants, that somehow it's a threat to our way of life," Ryan said. "It really struck me as appalling."
Paladino got in trouble in December 2016 after offering disparaging remarks about former first couple Barack and Michelle Obama in an end-of-year survey published by Artvoice. He was later removed from his seat on the Buffalo School Board. Paladino did not author the email sent Wednesday but defended his decision to share it.
"I sent something out that I thought was truthful and real when I read it, because that's what I do," Paladino said. "I'm comfortable with my choices and my selections. These people want to call me names? They want to say I'm propagating hate speech and whatever? That's all nonsense and sensitivities that don't really exist in the real world that I live in."
Pastor Mark Blue, who leads the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP, says the messages Paladino and others spread can and do make an impact on the real world. Like Ryan, Blue points to the recent shooting attacks on mosques in New Zealand, as well as last September's shooting attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, as acts of violence inspired by hate.
"A thought, and the spewing of what he had mentioned, those emails can go a long way," Blue said. "And if you have somebody who trusts and believes his ideology or his way of thinking, that can cause damage to another person."
Blue says he cannot call for any boycotts but, along with Ryan, urges entities currently doing business with Paladino to reconsider their relationships.
"Your banks don't believe in racism and bigotry but you're giving loans to a racist and bigoted client," Ryan said. "Buffalo Place doesn't believe in racism and bigotry but Buffalo Place has Carl Paladino as a board member. Kalieda Health doesn't believe in racism and bigotry, yet they give a contract to Carl Paladino to redevelop Children's Hospital."
Paladino, meanwhile, suggests Ryan is taking aim at his email as a means to distract voters from his voting record in Albany, especially his vote to support late-term and "partial birth" abortions.
"There's something sick and demented about that," he said. "He's trying to divert attention now from himself, on to me, over some article that I forwarded, after I read it and believe it to be a truthful article."
He later released the following written statement:
"The email that I sent, which is being reported on today, portrays the devastating loss of the French culture, as well as an increase in crime and poverty, and concerns about national security. Each country has its very distinct identity and without assimilation, that identity is lost. Six out of ten people in France believe Illegal immigration has had a 'negative impact.' This is why President Macron put forward a new immigration proposal last September when he announced he wanted 'a complete overhaul' of his country's policy. It takes courage to speak the truth...and I'm tired of the 'speech police' tactics of bullying and intimidation and branding people as 'racists' in order to defend their positions."