Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 Republican in the House, angered fellow House GOP leaders when she backed a New York congressional candidate with a history of controversial and racist remarks, two sources told NBC News.
Stefanik, RN.Y., endorsed Carl Paladino, a Buffalo developer, earlier this month without consulting other members of a leadership team that includes House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said a House GOP executive aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.
A House Republican familiar with GOP leadership’s frustration with Stefanik, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, called her endorsement of Paladino “baffling” and “off-putting.”
Paladino has made headlines in recent weeks for suggesting on Facebook that recent mass shootings were false flag operations and for a 2021 interview in which he said Adolf Hitler was the “kind of leader we we need today,” with news articles highlighting his connection to House Republican Conference Speaker Stefanik. The sources said the emergence of a connection between Paladino and House leaders has frustrated other top Republicans.
“When you’re in that number three position, when you’re in charge, everything you say is something that’s going to be interpreted as on behalf of the team,” the person said, adding, “It’s the reason we got rid of Liz Cheney. And now Elise is doing the same thing.
Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., from the leadership and replaced her with Stefanik last year after Cheney, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump for his role in the Capitol Riot, continued to publicly chastise him for promoting false claims. on the 2020 elections.
The campaign and Stefanik’s office declined to comment. Representatives for McCarthy, Scalise and the Republican National Committee of Congress did not respond to requests for comment.
A senior Republican who was not authorized to speak on the subject pointed to Stefanik’s endorsement record this cycle, noting “the majority of his endorsed candidates are winning, predicting that Nick Langworthy, the GOP chairman of the state, which is also seeking to represent the 23rd District, will suffer “an embarrassingly huge loss” to Paladino in the Aug. 23 primary.
“Republican leadership candidates would be very smart to make Carl an ally because he will be a member in January 2023,” the person said.
Stefanik endorsed Paladino, one of Trump’s first backers in 2016, almost immediately after GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs announced he would not run in New York’s 23rd congressional district after expressing his support for a federal ban on so-called assault weapons. In his approval, Stefanik describe Paladino as “a job creator and conservative underdog who will be a tireless fighter for the people of New York in our fight to put America first to save the country.”
Shortly after his endorsement, Paladino sparked a backlash for a post shared on his Facebook claiming recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo were “false flag” operations. Next, audio was unearthed from a 2021 interview Paladino gave to WBEN in Buffalo in which he said Adolf Hitler was “the kind of leader we need today.”
“I was thinking the other day about someone who mentioned Adolf Hitler on the radio and how he had lifted up the crowds. And he was getting up there shouting these epithets and these people were just – they were mesmerized by him” , Paladino said in a radio clip shared by the left-leaning group Media Matters for America. “I guess, I guess that’s the kind of leader we need today. We need someone We need someone who’s an actor, who’s been there and done it.
Paladino said in a statement that the remarks were a “serious error”, but argued that they were not in the right context.
“Any implication that I support Hitler or any of the sick and disgusting actions of the Nazi regime is a new low for the media,” he said. “The context of my statement was about something I heard on someone else’s radio and was repeating, I understand that invoking Hitler in any context is a grave mistake and rightly upsets people. I strongly condemn the murderous atrocities committed against the Jewish people by Hitler and the Nazis.”
A spokesperson for Stefanik said in a statement at the time that the congresswoman “has one of the strongest records in the United States Congress for condemning anti-Semitism and has led and passed bipartisan legislation to expand the ‘Holocaust education’.
Paladino has a history of controversial or racist remarks. Last week, CNN released audio of Paladino telling a radio host in 2016 that black Americans were being kept “dumb and hungry” in order to only vote for Democrats, adding, “You can’t teach them differently. “. That same year, Paladino, then a member of the Buffalo Board of Education, made racist remarks about then-first lady Michelle Obama being “dropped into the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave. with Maxie, the gorilla”.
Paladino claimed CNN took it out of context. After his 2016 remarks about the Obamas, in which he also said he wanted then-President Barack Obama to die of mad cow disease after having sex with a cow, he said he “couldn’t have made a worse choice in the words I used to express my feelings.
Stefanik’s endorsement for Paladino appears to stem from a growing feud between her and Langworthy, Politico reported this week.
Speaking to the New York Post earlier this month, Langworthy said Stefanik was backing Paladino due to a “vendetta” after the state party backed Rep. Lee Zeldin, RN.Y., in his candidacy. for governor against Governor Kathy Hochul rather than a potential challenge by Stefanik.
However, Politico reported, Langworthy has angered some state Republicans who believe it’s a conflict of interest for him to run for Jacobs’ seat after he encouraged him, as state chairman, to not to be re-elected. Others see it as a broader conflict to run for the seat while continuing to serve as the state party’s president.
“I think he needs to step down as president — period,” Sue McNeil, the GOP chairwoman in Fulton County, New York, told The New York Post. In addition, three of four GOP candidates as the Governor called him out during a debate this week – Zeldin being the only exception.
McCarthy, meanwhile, has come under fire from former President Donald Trump for the lack of Republican representation on the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot. Trump told a conservative radio host that he had not yet decided whether to back McCarthy in a possible bid for House speaker if Republicans regain control of the House in November.