New York Governor's Race Grows Nastier GOP candidate Carl Paladino's angry rhetoric spilled over into a heated confrontation with a reporter in upstate New York. The exchange could be chalked up to stress, but delivering such rage is one of Paladino's main campaign promises.
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New York Governor's Race Grows Nastier

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New York Governor's Race Grows Nastier

New York Governor's Race Grows Nastier

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The Republican candidate for governor of New York, Carl Paladino, has a favorite saying.

Mr. CARL PALADINO (Republican Candidate for Governor, New York): New Yorkers are as mad as hell...

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. PALADINO: ...and we're not going to take it anymore.

SIEGEL: That's from two weeks ago when the Tea Party-backed businessman won a surprise victory over an establishment Republican. But Paladino's angry rhetoric bubbled over in real life last night. He got into a heated confrontation with a reporter in upstate New York and threatened him.

Mr. PALADINO: I'll take you out, buddy.

Mr. FRED DICKER (Reporter, The New York Post):

Mr. PALADINO: Yeah.

Mr. DICKER: How are you going to do that?

Mr. PALADINO: Watch.

SIEGEL: Campaign aides had to hold the two men apart.

NPR's Robert Smith reports on what happens when political outrage becomes just plain rage.

ROBERT SMITH: New York's gubernatorial race was already ugly even before last night. Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino had admitted to having an affair and fathering a daughter with his mistress. The New York tabloids went wild. Paladino's response was to try to shift attention to his opponent, Democrat Andrew Cuomo. In interviews, Paladino kept insinuating that Cuomo also had affairs, back before his divorce.

So last night, a reporter from the New York Post, Fred Dicker, challenged Paladino. It was captured on tape by WCNY.

Mr. FRED DICKER (Reporter, The New York Post): Do you have any evidence of that? And if you don't, isn't that going into the gutter?

Mr. PALADINO: Hmm.

SMITH: Paladino would not produce evidence, but he did have a bone to pick with the reporter. He accused the Post of sending photographers onto his property to take pictures of his 10-year-old daughter. This is when fingers got pointed, and the swearing began.

Mr. DICKER: What's the evidence?

Mr. PALADINO: You're his bird dog.

Mr. DICKER: You made the charge.

Unidentified Man: That's enough.

Mr. DICKER: What do you have to back it up?

Mr. PALADINO: You send another goon to my daughter's house, and I'll take you out, buddy.

Mr. DICKER: You're going to take me out?�

Mr. PALADINO: Yeah.

Mr. DICKER: How are you going to do that?

Mr. PALADINO: Watch.

Mr. DICKER: What are you, threatening me?

Unidentified Man: Hey, hey, hey. Fred, you're out of line.

Carl Paladino was pulled by his aides into a bathroom. They told the reporter that the room was only for men.

SMITH: Now, this whole thing could be chalked up to stress and friction on a campaign. It happens. But the notable thing about Carl Paladino is that delivering such rage is one of his main campaign promises.

On the trail, the Republican calls himself a wartime leader, like General Patton. He refers to his campaign as a crusade. Paladino threatens to clean up the New York state capitol with a baseball bat. He vows confrontation, and promises it is going to get ugly. In an interview with Fox 5 TV earlier this week, Paladino said that he liked his nasty reputation.

Mr. PALADINO: I'm not politically correct. I'm an outsider. I plan on really restructuring our government. I plan on taking out these bad guys, and Andrew Cuomo's at the top of the list.

SMITH: This leaves Democrat Andrew Cuomo in a strange situation. Cuomo is the son of former Governor Mario Cuomo, and Andrew was legendary in New York political circles for being aggressive and even nasty during his father's campaigns.

But Paladino kind of staked out that whole territory already. Cuomo's been as quiet and as calm as he's ever been. He's avoided committing to debates, and only this week started even mentioning his opponent, using one word in particular.

Mr. ANDREW CUOMO (Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate, New York): I believe Mr. Paladino's position of saying the best form of government is a benevolent dictator, I believe that is an extremist position. It is an extreme position, and it is held by an extremist group.

SMITH: Besides that extreme repetition, Cuomo stays pretty much on the issues. He does not mention Carl Paladino's personal life, nor does he mention another scandal: a series of racist and pornographic emails that Paladino forwarded to his friends.

It's hard to tell how the rage of Carl Paladino is playing with the voters. Polls have shown the race to be either neck-and-neck, or they have Cuomo way ahead. But in upstate New York, the angry shtick doesn't seem to be hurting. At Mimi's Drive Inn in Fulton, Don and Mary Wolcott, a retired couple, sided with Paladino in last night's fight.

Mr. DON WOLCOTT: Yeah, he's kind of rough around the edges, isn't he? I give the guy a lot of credit, though, for standing up for himself.

Ms. MARY WOLCOTT: I like his spunk. We need people in Albany and Washington that's got some backbone. This country has no backbone anymore.

SMITH: Another diner said that avoiding confrontation is the sign of a polished politician, and nobody wants to be that these days. If the Paladino campaign was embarrassed by last night's fight and all the talk of violence, they certainly didn't show it. They put up a special website today asking for contributions to a money bomb.

Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

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