BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Carl Paladino, a Republican running for Congress in western New York, said Thursday he was wrong to invoke Adolf Hitler when he said in an interview last year he was “the kind of leader we need today” because of his ability to rally crowds.
It was the second time this week that Paladino had to explain himself after announcing his campaign.
In an interview on WBEN radio in February 2021, Paladino brought up Hitler when asked by host Peter Hunt about how to “rouse the population” and ”get people thinking about the possibility of change.”
“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 replied. "That’s, 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, so that it’s not a strange new world to him.”
After a recording of the radio conversation was published Thursday by Media Matters for America, Paladino said in a statement that any implication that his comments meant he supported Hitler would be “a new low for the media.”
But he said he was wrong to mention the Nazi leader at all.
“I understand that invoking Hitler in any context is a serious mistake and rightfully upsets people. I strongly condemn the murderous atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazi’s, including towards my own Italian family,” the statement said.
It is the latest in a yearslong list of controversial comments attributed to the Buffalo real estate developer, who was the Republican candidate for New York governor in 2010 and co-chaired former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign committee in New York.
Earlier this week, Paladino shared - then deleted - a conspiracy-laden Facebook post suggesting a racist mass shooting in his hometown of Buffalo and other mass killings were part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
Paladino first told The Buffalo News that it was posted by someone else with access to his account. Then on Wednesday he said he posted it because it was written by a friend.
During his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, Paladino was widely criticized over a pattern of forwarding racist jokes about Black people to a circle of friends via his company email account. Paladino apologized and won the party's nomination.
Paladino was ousted from the Buffalo School Board in 2016 amid an uproar over statements he made to a local newspaper, in which he wrote he wanted to see President Barack Obama dead of mad cow disease and first lady Michelle Obama “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 later acknowledged those comments were “inappropriate.” The state education commissioner removed Paladino from the school board soon after for disclosing confidential school board business.
Paladino had also drawn complaints from Jewish groups during his run for governor after a newspaper quoted him as calling the Jewish leader of New York's Assembly “an anti-Christ or a Hitler.”
Paladino announced his run for Congress after incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs said he would not seek reelection after facing backlash from his own party for voicing support for an assault weapons ban.
His candidacy was quickly endorsed by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of GOP leadership in Washington and rising star in the party.
Stefanik’s campaign did not immediately respond Thursday to a message seeking comment. The New York Republican Party and its nominee for New York governor, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is Jewish and chairs the House Republican Israel Caucus, also did not return messages seeking comment.
Paladino tweeted Thursday that he was “Proud to be ENDORSED by the Jewish Vote GOP for my run for Congress in New York’s 23rd Congressional District! #NY23.”
A Facebook page associated with the group describes it as a group that is “Helping Jews become educated about politics, help donate directly to candidates, volunteer and vote.” A message seeking comment about Paladino’s remarks sent to an email address associated with the group was not immediately returned.
Associated Press Writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report from New York.