Carl Paladino says he remembers the sixties, but apparently he wasn’t there. That’s what several people told the Syracuse Post-Standard‘s Paul Riede when he tried to track down Paladino’s claims to have faced down a mob of crazed student rioters.
In an interview about his law student days at Syracuse University, Paladino said he’d stepped up as hostage negotiator during a 1970 student takeover in the wake of the Kent State massacre that May.
Paladino told Riede that he persuaded protestors who had seized a building to release SU chancellor John Corbally by getting them to accept the chief of police as a replacement hostage.
“When the riots came, I was the one who negotiated for Chief Sardino to take the place of the chancellor, who the students had locked down in the administration building ..,” he told Riede. “Sardino had the idea that he would come up and they would let the chancellor leave and take him as their hostage, if you wanted to call it. … So when Sardino came up with this idea I negotiated with these guys, who agreed to let the chancellor go and take Sardino in his place … “
“Sardino asked me if I would do it, and I said sure. So I went out and found them and I said, you know, ‘Take the police commissioner and let the chancellor go home. The guy’s got to take a shower, I mean for God sakes …’ So they said, ‘Yeah, OK’.”
Sadly, this is apparently one more flight of Tea Party fantasy. A professor, David Bennett, who visited the seized building said it never happened. “That’s completely wrong,” he told Riede. “He’s either living in Cloud Cuckooland or, shall we say, his historical memory is clouded by whatever it is.”
The newspaper’s own clips of the protest bear him out. Reports at the time said nothing about a hostage. They described the chancellor and the police chief leaving the building together after a two-hour negotiating session with the protestors.
Another classmate, Jules Smith, said: “I have the feeling that this may be an urban legend in Carl’s mind.”
Finally, two of Paladino’s close pals from law school said that the millionaire from Buffalo never mentioned the incident to them.
The New York Post tracked down another witness — Robert Tembeckjian, the longtime administrator of the state judicial conduct commission who in another life was the spokesman for the protesting Syracuse students back then. Tembeckjian also pulled a blank when asked about Paladino’s valiant efforts.
There’s also no mention of any hostage incident in a history of the university during that period (“Syracuse University, The Eggers Years“) which describes the student strike in detail, including a count of broken windows (71), and numerous quotes from the chancellor and the police chief.
Paladino didn’t want to talk any more about it when the Post tracked him down last night. But his handler and campaign manager, Michael Caputo, took things down several notches from his candidate’s initial brave assertions: “His involvement was on the margins,” said Caputo. Which may go for his candidacy as well.