Buffalo school board asks Carl Paladino to resign after racist remarks about Obamas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A western New York builder and former Republican nominee for governor was censured on Thursday by fellow members of the Buffalo Board of Education and asked to resign his seat for making racial slurs about President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

The school board called a special meeting and approved a resolution demanding the resignation of Carl Paladino, a board member who ran unsuccessfully for New York governor in 2010. The resolution threatens proceedings to remove the outspoken conservative if he does not step down.

Paladino created a firestorm last week when he sent an email to a weekly newspaper saying he hoped "Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Her(e)ford."

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Regarding Michelle Obama, Paladino said: "I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."

His comments were published in the holiday edition of Artvoice, which had surveyed Buffalo residents about what they would like to happen in 2017 and what they would like to see go away.

Paladino, a wealthy real estate developer and ally of President-elect Donald Trump, issued a statement on Tuesday apologizing for his comments. He also took a swipe at critics, calling them "parasites," and said Barack Obama was "a traitor to American values."

Paladino was elected in 2013 to the school board, which oversees a district with 34,000 students in the second-largest city in New York state.

During Thursday's meeting, which was broadcast online, some board members accused Paladino of acting like a bully and making remarks they would not tolerate from students.

"This level of hatred for African-Americans cannot and should not set policy for the education of African-American children," board member Paulette Woods said.

More than 70 percent of the district is non-white, according to the resolution.

Members of the audience stood up and cheered when the resolution was approved.

Signed by six of the nine board members, the resolution says that if Paladino does not resign within 24 hours, the board will retain a lawyer to force his removal by the state's education commissioner.

The commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, is monitoring the situation in Buffalo and will review any removal request as quickly as possible, a spokeswoman said.

State education commissioners have removed four board members from districts in western New York in the past 24 years, the Buffalo News reported.

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Paladino, a co-chairman of Trump's campaign in New York state, told a radio station on Wednesday that he would not leave the board voluntarily.

"I'm the agent of change. I'm the guy that exposed the underbelly of their corrupt and dysfunctional school system, and they want me gone from the scene," he said in the radio interview.

Paladino could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Trump's transition team has called Paladino's comments "absolutely reprehensible," USA Today reported.