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Tea party leader says N.Y. candidate is victim of smear over racist e-mails

One week after launching a tea party-powered campaign to become governor of New York, Buffalo real estate mogul Carl Paladino is being called to account for racist and sexually explicit e-mails he sent to friends -- one of whom leaked it.

The imagery and language in the e-mails are suitable only for adults. Particularly racist adults. The sexually explicit stuff is in a class of its own; the racist stuff includes a video of dancing Africans, labeled as a rehearsal for the Obama inauguration, and a photo that displays the "n-word" in extremely large type.

Now that you've been warned, Zachary Roth digs through the greatest hits; the site that obtained the e-mails, WNYMedia, is collapsing under a surge of traffic.

Paladino's campaign denies nothing, and the candidate himself, when confronted by reporters at a tea-party rally Monday, put on a poker face and changed the subject.

That rally was put on in part by the Tea Party Express -- CNN was on hand, organizers tell me, and 1,500 people showed up. In a short interview, Buffalo Tea Party organizer Allen Coniglio told me that Paladino is a "decent person" and that this story is a smear.

"I believe that the people doing this are hard-core, left-wing, liberal people who are going to stop at nothing to smear him," said Coniglio. "He's not a racist. He was just passing on some nonsense in an e-mail. Everybody does things that are not 100 percent pure. He’s just a human being."

Coniglio made it clear that he and the Buffalo Tea Party denounced the content of the e-mails and "do not support any racist positions of any kind." This story, he said, was the kind of thing he'd come to expect from the media and liberal activists.

"There were seven or eight guys out in front of our rally today, calling us racist," said Coniglio. "For what? We didn’t do anything! The guy that sent this out is viciously opposed to the tea parties. It’s gotcha gotcha all day long."

Siena Research Institute pollster Steven Greenberg tells me that the company will be surveying the race Monday night, as well as asking a question about the tea party movement. The statement from Paladino's campaign follow.

Carl Paladino has forwarded close friends hundreds of email messages he received. Many of these emails he received were off color, some were politically incorrect, few represented his own opinion, and almost none of them were worth remembering.

We're not surprised the political establishment feels threatened by Carl's drive the take Albany back for taxpayers. Our campaign won't be wading through the details of what is just another liberal Democrat blog smear. It figures that members of the Party who brought us record taxes, record spending and record debt would want to change the topic from reform to having sex with horses and S&M parlors.

By David Weigel  |  April 12, 2010; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Fringe , Race  
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