A western New York builder and one-time Republican candidate for governor of New York , Carl Paladino, came under fire on Friday for offensive comments about President Obama and the first lady, who Mr. Paladino said should be “let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe.”
Mr. Paladino’s comments were published in Artvoice, a weekly Buffalo newspaper. They came in response to an open-ended feature in which local figures were asked about their hopes for 2017.
“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford,” said Mr. Paladino, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, making an apparent reference to the Hereford cattle breed. He said he hoped the disease killed the president.
When asked what he most wanted to see “go away” in the new year, Mr. Paladino — who has a reputation in New York political and business circles for speaking in an unfiltered manner reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s — answered, “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,” he said.
Condemnation of the remarks was swift on social media and among elected officials around the state. The local county executive called for Mr. Paladino to immediately resign his post on the Buffalo school board.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who defeated Mr. Paladino in 2010, called the comments “racist, ugly and reprehensible.” He said in a statement that Mr. Paladino had a “long history” of making similar comments and that he had “embarrassed the good people of the state with his latest hate-filled rage.”
Mr. Paladino conducted several media interviews, framing his comments about the Obamas as “old-style humor” in an interview with a Buffalo television news station and as an effort to draw attention to the president’s “transgressions” in a telephone interview with The New York Times.
“I did it to wake people up; I did it to get people’s attention,” he said in the telephone interview. He pointed to a page-long statement, published after the comments were made, in which he outlined his grievances with the Obama administration. “He couldn’t care less about the people,” he said of the president in the statement.