Businessman Carl Paladino served as the co-chairman of the president-elect's New York State election campaign. Photograph: (AFP)
Carl Paladino said he wished to see Barack Obama die and wanted Michelle to 'live with Maxie, the gorilla'
A Donald Trump ally has ignited widespread outrage after wishing for US President Barack Obama's death and making racially charged comments about the first lady.
Carl Paladino -- a businessman who served as a co-chairman of the president-elect's New York State election campaign -- made the incendiary jabs in a year-end feature published on Friday in Artvoice, a weekly newspaper in upstate New York.
Asked what he would "most like to see happen" in 2017, the former Republican candidate for governor of New York state said he hoped Obama "catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations" with a type of beef cattle and "dies before his trial."
When questioned what he would "most like to see go" next year, Paladino replied "Michelle Obama."
"I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."
Paladino's remarks quickly spurred angry reaction on social media and drew the ire of elected officials.
Andrew Cuomo -- current New York governor who beat Paladino in 2010 -- slammed his ex-rival's comments as "racist, ugly and reprehensible."
"Paladino has a long history of racist and incendiary comments," Cuomo said in a statement. "His remarks do not reflect the sentiments or opinions of any real New Yorker.
"He has embarrassed the good people of the state with his latest hate-filled rage."
Trump did not personally defend or call out his political ally, though a spokeswoman for the president-elect said the comments "are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse," according to the New York Times.
Facing broad condemnation, Paladino published an open letter that his remarks had "nothing to do with race." In the statement he went on to call Obama "a yellow-bellied coward" and said the first lady should "leave and go someplace she will be happy."
Paladino -- a developer in the city of Buffalo, New York -- visited Trump Tower earlier this month, a meeting he described to The Buffalo News as "very warm."