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Paladino scuffle with reporter 'Tony Soprano-like'

By Ed Hornick, CNN
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Carl Paladino, reporter exchange words
  • Carl Paladino is the New York GOP gubernatorial candidate
  • Confrontation between Paladino and columnist captured on cell phone video
  • Analyst says Paladino's controversial comments hamper his prospects
  • Family friend says Paladino was just defending his family

(CNN) -- A recent confrontation between New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and a newspaper columnist illustrates the multimillionaire's brash and unpredictable nature, a political observer said.

"He's got to control himself," said Doug Muzzio, a professor of public policy at Baruch College in New York. "This guy wants to be the governor and is going to start beating up or having reporters hit? It's [got] a Tony Soprano-like quality to it."

On Wednesday, Paladino got into a near-physical altercation with New York Post statehouse columnist Fred Dicker that was captured in an exclusive cell phone video by CNN affiliate YNN Albany.

"You send another goon to my daughter's house and I'll take you out, buddy," Paladino said in an apparent reference to the the New York paper's coverage of a daughter Paladino had out of wedlock.

Muzzio, a New York political observer, said that Paladino should never have gone after Dicker using violent language because it "makes him sound like a thug."

"I can't see how this is any way helps Carl Paladino," Muzzio said.

"What it shows is -- it gives you an insight into Paladino's emotional and psychological makeup," Muzzio said.

Video: Carl Paladino scuffles with reporter

"And it's that insight that I think is the foremost lesson of this episode."

Brian Gould, who grew up in south Buffalo with the Paladino family, said that while the incident is "out of the ordinary," for the candidate, it shows that he is "an extremely loyal guy that puts his family and friends first."

"This has been a very difficult and emotional year for Carl and the family -- with the death of his son Patrick and other personal matters that he and the family have dealt with," said Gould, who remains close with Paladino.

"Unfortunately the campaign has put Carl's personal life and especially his youngest daughter in the forefront and he is rightfully very, very protective of her. ... I think some of that came out last night."

Michael Caputo, Paladino's campaign manager, defended his boss's actions, telling the New York Daily News that it's "appropriate behavior for a man who just met the man who sent photographers to take pictures of his 10-year-old daughter."

Caputo said Paladino, 64, is "usually thick-skinned -- but not when it comes to his kids and grandkids," the newspaper reported.

On Thursday, Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the New York Post, released a statement saying that Caputo's claim about their photographer is untrue.

"We can only assume Mr. Caputo is confusing our photographer with someone else," Allan said. "Mr. Caputo should check his facts before making charges against Post personnel."

"In addition, Mr. Paladino should not be surprised by the media's interest in his families, as he has invited public scrutiny of his personal life by running for governor and speaking openly about his mistress and love child."

Paladino -- a devout Catholic and successful real estate mogul and lawyer in Buffalo, New York -- is no stranger to controversy.

He reportedly called former New York Republican Gov. George Pataki a "degenerate idiot" and lashed out at the Republican establishment during the campaign against Rick Lazio.

He promised to "take a baseball bat to Albany" -- the state capital; is outspoken against plans to build an Islamic community center near ground zero in lower Manhattan -- even suggesting that the state take control of the area through eminent domain; and is steadfastly anti-abortion, even in cases of incest and rape.

Paladino told CNN's Rick Sanchez that he is not politically correct and "never will be."

"I'm not a person looking for money. I have no political ambitions whatsoever. I don't seek power. I don't seek any kind of praise. I have no ego to fulfill."

But Paladino comes with a lot of baggage, observers note: He has acknowledged having a child outside of his marriage; is one of the biggest renters of property to the state; and was caught sending pornographic and racist e-mails, among other things.

Read more about Carl Paladino

As for those e-mails, Paladino told Cooper that they were "offensive" and apologized to those who were offended.

And then there's his support and fundraising for state Democrats, including then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. But it's something he is not ashamed of.

"He's always went to anybody who has said they would do anything for Buffalo, including Chuck Schumer, including Hillary Clinton," Caputo told CNN. "He's not ashamed of it."

In fact, Paladino supported Clinton's 2008 presidential bid -- even though the two have vastly different policy positions. For him, supporting Buffalo trumps ideology.

While many believe he is a long shot to win, his campaign manager is hopeful that Republicans will rally around their candidate and send him to Albany.

"The rank-and-file of the Republican Party gave Carl Paladino a mandate [in the primary] to lead the Republican Party in 2010," Caputo said. "And that's what he's doing today."

CNN's Cheryl Robinson contributed to this report.