By any fair measure, Carl Paladino was already one of the nation’s most controversial congressional candidates this year. The New York Republican has a history of racism, homophobia, and utterly bonkers conspiracy theories.
And yet, despite this record, when Paladino recently 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.
At which point he became even more controversial.
Earlier this week, for example, the public learned that Paladino 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.)
Yesterday, his candidacy became even more outlandish when we learned of an interview Paladino did last year in which he said that Adolf Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today.” NBC News reported:
“I was thinking the other day about somebody had mentioned on the radio Adolf Hitler and how he aroused the crowds. And he would get up there screaming these epithets and these people were just — they were hypnotized by him,” Paladino said in a radio clip unearthed by the left-leaning group Media Matters for America. “I guess, I guess that’s the kind of leader we need today. We need somebody inspirational. We need somebody that is a doer, has been there and done it.”
Media Matters posted both an audio clip and a transcript of the on-air comments.
Paladino tried to clarify matters yesterday, issuing a statement that he doesn’t actually support Hitler. “The context of my statement was in regards to something I heard on the radio from someone else and was repeating,” the Republican candidate said. “I understand that invoking Hitler in any context is a serious mistake and rightfully upsets people.”
In other words, the congressional hopeful heard someone else say that Hitler was a charismatic and influential leader, and he thought it’d be a good idea to echo that praise. How reassuring.
He went on to tell The Buffalo News, “Hitler was a very popular person; the popularity was something we never saw in America. That had nothing to do with praising him. You look for someone to move an entire population. I was just using that as an example.”
Paladino added, “I should have used Churchill.”
As the story unfolded yesterday afternoon, I largely assumed that Stefanik and the National Republican Congressional Committee would cut Paladino loose. After all, once a congressional candidate describes Hitler as “the kind of leader we need today,” that seems like the sort of development that would be a deal-breaker in GOP politics, even in 2022.
But there was no such denunciation. Though I’ll gladly update this if the circumstances change, as of this morning, Stefanik doesn't appear to have pulled her Paladino endorsement; he’s still a congressional candidate; and he might very well win the congressional seat.
Jacobs endorsed popular gun measures. Paladino used racist rhetoric and said the United States would benefit from a leader like Hitler. Only one of these two New York Republicans faced a backlash from within his own party.