Hotheaded Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino insists he never called Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver an "anti-Christ" or a "Hitler," returning fire through a spokesman today after a group of Orthodox Jews lambasted him on the steps of City Hall.
Michael Caputo, the campaign pokesman for Paladino, a real estate developer, also cited Paladino’s Jewish friends in response to Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the most prominent member of the protest group. "What the hell is wrong with him?" Hikind asked in reference to the Hitler comments attributed to Paladino. "Is he out of his freaking mind?"
"Dov ‘paid-to-attack-someone-every-October’ Hikind, twists Carl’s words in a smear effort, with the hopes that the members of the hard-working Jewish community will not note that the Democrats in Albany didn’t serve them well all those years," Caputo responded, as reported on the blog Vos Is Neias. "But the fact is that the era of using fear tactics against members of one’s own community – as a way to deflect critic and accountability – is long over. Voters are smarter than these cheap shots."
The Niagara Gazette reported last October that Paladino, at a public forum in upstate Wheatfield, referred to comments made by Erie County Supervisor Chris Collins that Silver was "the anti-Christ" and added that the speaker was “probably the most corrupt and incompetent human being to ever serve in state government in the state of New York.” He added: “If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an Antichrist or a Hitler, this guy is it,” Paladino said. “I’m sure Chris had no — absolutely no — intention whatsoever of insulting the Jewish faith or the ethnic group or religion.”
Paladino’s comments were rarely mentioned in the past year until last week when the Tea Party-embracing conservative, using his own fortune, defeated former Suffolk County congressman Rick Lazio in the Republican primary.
Caputo on Monday said: "We, of course, could respond with a dozen rabbis and with many of Carl’s Jewish business partners to stand behind Carl. But why bother? This is nonsense! Carl Paladino never said what Hired Hitman Hikind accuses (namely, that Speaker Silver is a Hitler)."
He added: "Carl saw firsthand the bigotry and prejudice his father, Bellisario, suffered for being Italian-American. Carl abhors all bigotry and discrimination; his Jewish friends in Buffalo know it. Being a no-nonsense guy who says it as it is, does not make one a bigot or anti-Semite. It makes one a person that will do whatever it takes to help New York and to root-out the corruption in Albany."
In an interview Monday, Hikind said he believed Paladino is "out of his mind" and expressed concern the candidate’s rhetoric about using a baseball bat to reform Albany — and about bringing Silver to Attica prison while letting people beat him up along the way — might incite angry people to violence. Still, he said, he sees pockets of support for the canidate in his heavily Jewish Borough Park-Flatbush district. "I had someone call my radio show Saturday night and say that even if he is a little bit of an anti-Semite, he would still rather have someone [like Paladino] whose family values are more in line with his own on issues of abortion and gay marriage," Hikind said.