It’s not uncommon for politicians to exaggerate or even invent tales of military heroism, but this is a new one on me … a candidate concocting tales of campus protest derring-do.

In the spring of 1970 President Nixon launched an invasion of Cambodia, and campuses across the country erupted into protest. When National Guard troops shot and killed four students at Kent State on May 4, the protests grew bigger and angrier.

Enter Carl Paladino.

Paladino, now the Republican candidate for governor of New York, was a law student at Syracuse University that spring. In an interview published this week, he says that the campus erupted into “riots” after Kent State, with student demonstrators holding Chancellor John Corbally “hostage” in a locked-down building.

It was Paladino himself, he says, who freed Corbally. The Syracuse chief of police, Thomas Sardino, came up with the idea of offering to take the chancellor’s place, and asked the young law student to make it happen. So Paladino, he now says, negotiated with the radical activists, entering the building and asking them to “take the police commissioner and let the chancellor go home.” They agreed to the swap, and the stand-off was eventually resolved peacefully.

It’s a great story. Too bad it never happened.

Newspaper accounts from the time say nothing about any lockdown, and make no mention of any hostage situation. Corbally wasn’t in his office when the students took over the building, those accounts say, and he and Sardino entered together shortly thereafter. They stayed talking to the students for two hours, then left. Faculty and students who were involved in the protest tell similar stories now.

Corbally and Sardino are both now dead, but John Beach, who was the university’s lawyer during the protests, also remembers the situation as it was reported in the papers. He says he has no memory that the chancellor was “ever prevented or threatened to be prevented from getting out,” and that the police chief “befriended the students and stayed overnight” voluntarily.

As for Paladino, who now says he “didn’t like the war protesters … that whole hippie crowd,” nobody remembers him being involved in the protest at all.

Update | Paladino’s spokesperson is walking the story back a bit: “His involvement was on the margins … the way Carl remembers it, the chancellor was in a difficult situation that needed to be resolved.”

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