By any fair measure, Carl Paladino was already one of the nation’s most controversial congressional candidates this year. As we’ve discussed, the New York Republican has a history of racism, homophobia, and utterly bonkers conspiracy theories.
And yet, despite this record, when Paladino launched a U.S. House campaign in his Buffalo-area district — incumbent GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs felt forced to retire after endorsing a ban on assault weapons — House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik quickly threw her support behind the far-right candidate.
Common sense suggests the far-right candidate might’ve tried to clean up his act, at least a little, in the hopes of impressing voters. And yet, Paladino apparently can’t help himself. The Buffalo News reported:
Republican congressional candidate Carl Paladino said on a radio show last week that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “probably should be executed” following the raid of Donald Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago.
As part of his on-air appearance, the GOP candidate specifically said the attorney general “should not only be impeached, he probably should be executed.” Paladino added that Garland is a “lost soul” who shouldn't have approved a search of “the home of a former president.”
Look, at this point, we could explore in detail the fact that the attorney general didn’t do anything wrong. We could also flesh out all of the entirely legitimate reasons why Garland handled this matter by the book, and why the criticisms he’s facing are baseless.
But while those details are relevant, what really matters here is something more basic: A Republican congressional candidate, who enjoys the support of the House GOP conference chair, thought it’d be a good idea to talk publicly about the attorney general’s “execution”
In fairness, a couple of minutes later, Paladino said in the interview that he was “just being facetious” about Garland’s death, though the congressional candidate added, “The man should be removed from office.”
Again, putting aside the fact that there’s no evidence of the attorney general doing anything wrong, the question then becomes why the Republican was joking about Garland’s “execution” while the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security raise the alarm about a spike in threats to federal law enforcement officials.
This comes two months after CNN reported on Paladino having argued that Black Americans were kept “dumb and hungry” so they could be conditioned to only vote for the Democratic Party, adding, “You can’t teach them differently.”
Two weeks earlier, the public also learned of an interview Paladino did last year in which he said that Adolf Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today.” (The candidate soon after tried to clarify matters, issuing a statement that he doesn’t actually support Hitler.)
More recently, the New Yorker shared a Facebook message claiming recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde were false flag operations. (The Republican soon after said he had “no idea” how the post appeared on his page.)
Paladino’s comments about the attorney general can now be added to a lengthy list.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, part of what makes these developments notable is the degree to which the New York Republican captures a larger political dynamic. NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin, for example, recently explained, “Paladino was an early canary in the coal mine for where politics was headed. He emailed out a bestiality video to his contact list (yes, you read that correctly) along with racist memes featuring the n-word and then won the gubernatorial nomination” in New York in 2010.
This remains a good and underappreciated point. As ridiculous as Donald Trump’s rise in GOP politics may have seemed, there were plenty of hints about radical shifts in attitudes among rank-and-file Republicans. The fact that Paladino could win a gubernatorial primary in a large blue state, after voters learned about his odious views, proved to be a sign of things to come.
Indeed, let’s not brush past the fact that during Trump’s 2016 candidacy, his political operation tapped one man to oversee the campaign in the state of New York: Carl Paladino.
But let’s also not forget that the problem is not entirely retrospective. Republican leaders, including Stefanik, have had all kinds of opportunities to denounce Paladino and reject his congressional candidacy.
I’ll be happy to update this post if that changes, but as of this afternoon, the total number of GOP leaders who’ve condemned Paladino is zero.