But it can also apply to other formats. Like radio talk show interviews.
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In February 2021, businessman Carl Paladino appeared on such a program. Paladino has long been an ally of Donald Trump and is a household name in New York business and politics. He recently announced his candidacy for New York’s 23rd congressional district, quickly gain approval House Republican Conference Speaker Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.).
But 16 months ago, he was just Carl Paladino, a guy calling on local Buffalo radio shows. And who, uninvited, offered praise for Adolf Hitler.
At the time, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was under fire, facing allegations of improper conduct that would lead to his resignation. Paladino was asked how to get the public to advocate for change.
“I was thinking the other day about someone mentioning Adolf Hitler on the radio and how he stirred up the crowds,” Paladino said, according to audio unearthed by Media Matters. “And he was getting up there screaming these epithets, and these people were just – they were mesmerized by him. That’s, I guess, I guess that’s the kind of leader we need today. We need someone inspiring.
He added that the state needed an “actor”, although it was unclear whether he was suggesting Hitler was an “actor”. But, of course, noting Hitler’s oratory skills – and his use of epithets! – as positive is goofy enough on its own.
A request for a response from the Paladino campaign has not been received at the time of publication. Paladino, however, tweeted this shortly after the Media Matters report was released.
This isn’t the first example Paladino has shown of saying things that might elicit a sheepish response. In 2016, shortly after Trump won the presidency, Paladino accidentally sent a Buffalo post a comment about then-First Lady Michelle Obama that he said he only meant to send to friends.
“I would like her to be a man again and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe,” he wrote, “where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie the gorilla.”
“I filled out the survey to send to a few friends and forwarded it to them not realizing that I hadn’t clicked ‘forward’, I clicked ‘reply’,” Paladino told the time. “All men make mistakes.”
Again, Paladino was not a candidate at the time of his interview in February 2021. But he had been a candidate for governor in 2010 (lose easily to Democrat Cuomo) and was still involved in Republican politics. He was a member of the Buffalo school board…until a little after the Michelle Obama incident. The norm for Americans is generally to be careful about how and when to praise Hitler, if for some reason you feel the need to. For a well-known businessman and politician, the standard is much higher.
It’s hard to disentangle Paladino’s comment on Hitler’s appeal of his support for Trump and his party’s drift. Trump rose to prominence within the GOP specifically because of his ability to piss off the public — often using epithets that reflected far-right anger. In 2017, more than 4 in 10 Republicans expressed support for a system of government based on a strong leader unfettered by legislative constraints, i.e. favoring an autocrat or dictator who held power equally than Hitler. Paladino did not express support for Hitler’s policies or Nazi Germany’s political system, but he noted with approval Hitler’s willingness to inflame his audience. To what end?
I wouldn’t have thought it had to be said, but apparently it does. There are not many people in human history for whom there is no benefit in pointing out positive qualities, but the man who orchestrated the mass murder of millions of predominantly Jewish Europeans is the one of them. The guy who started a global conflict between freedom and fascism at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American troops isn’t someone worth thinking of as having useful skills. There are other people who have effectively energized populations who have not also tried to murder a large portion of that same population.
In other words, politicians, I would say this: you in no way have to praise Adolf Hitler’s ability to stir up a crowd.
Update: In an interview with the Buffalo News, Paladino claims he did not praise Hitler, noting that Hitler “was a very popular person”. He added that he would have preferred to use Winston Churchill as an example instead.