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Black leaders call out Paladino

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

Calling New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino a "threat to New York's longstanding commitment to tolerance and equality," New York State's Black leaders released a collective statement last week after Primary Tuesday addressing a new enemy: Paladino. They called for him to apologize for past remarks that they deemed insensitive and asked him to tone down his rhetoric.

The joint statement was signed by Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League; Phil Banks, president of 100 Black Men's New York Chapter; Hazel Dukes, New York State Conference director of the NAACP; former New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall; former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson; Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries, Carl Heastie and Karim Camara; Assemblywoman Helen Foster; Councilman Jumaane Williams; Councilwoman Leticia James; New York State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson; and Eric Stevenson, leader of the 79th District in the Bronx.

"Tuesday's victory by Carl Paladino--an extreme, polarizing figure--should alarm all of us," read the statement. "Mr. Paladino has effectively declared war on communities of color with a series of racially incendiary comments along the campaign trail. We got a taste of this early on when it was discovered that Mr. Paladino had been sending racially offensive e-mails to associates."

The e-mails that the statement refers to included images of bestiality, along with images of President Barack Obama that the leaders said were "popular with white supremacists."

Stunning pundits and the GOP establishment last week with his upset win over party favorite Rick Lazio in the New York's GOP gubernatorial primary, Paladino said, "There's a people's revolution, I want everyone who opposed me in the Republican Party to know this: You're welcomed to join the people's crusade. Come aboard. You're both welcomed and needed. If we unite, we'll win. We'll rebuild New York."

While some believe that Paladino's victory is a blessing for the Democratic Party, last week's joint statement alleged that Paladino's presence brings about a different danger.

"Our governor should be uniting our state and spurring economic empowerment statewide, not pitting one group against another," said the leadership statement. "Yet Mr. Paladino has sent a clear message to minority communities: We are not welcome in his business nor would we be welcome in his administration."

During his campaign, Paladino expressed his dislike for New York State's social programs and benefits and suggested that welfare recipients be housed in underused New York State prisons. "Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene," he said while campaigning, "the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes."

Paladino stood by his hygiene comments when he said that he developed his opinion based on training troops from the inner-city in the Army. "You have to teach them basic things--taking care of themselves, physical fitness," he added.

This is why, according to Dukes, local Black leaders had to speak up. "The remark he made, we didn't make it up," she said. "We heard it plain as day. I hope that Mr. Cuomo doesn't get involved in mudslinging [with him]. We need to focus on the serious issues that face our state. We are in a crisis.