New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino touched off a new uproar Sunday, saying that children should not be "brainwashed" into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable.
On "Good Morning America," today Paladino said his comments were rooted in his Catholic faith and that he's "not homophobic" and has "no reservations whatsoever about gays."
Appearing before a small gathering of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn, Paladino also boasted that he boycotted New York's gay pride parade.
The Tea Party-backed Paladino ignited the controversy during what normally is a routine and unremarkable ritual of campaigns in New York, a visit to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to court the ultra-religious Jews who live there -- one of the myriad voting blocks in the racially and ethnically diverse city.
Political observers could not recall the last time a major-party candidate in New York had made such comments about homosexuality.
Apparently trying to draw a distinction from his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Paladino told the Jewish leaders in Brooklyn that he didn't march in "the gay parade this year -- the gay pride parade," while Cuomo did.
"That's not the example we should be showing our children, and certainly not in our schools" he said.
"And don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live," he said.
"I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don't want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option," he said. "It isn't."
Paladino vowed that as governor he would veto any bill legalizing gay marriage or civil unions.
The Cuomo campaign issued a statement denouncing the remarks.
"Mr. Paladino's statement displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality. These comments along with other views he has espoused make it clear that he is way out of the mainstream and is unfit to represent New York," the Cuomo campaign said.
Paladino's prepared text for the campaign event included this line, "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual. That is not how God created us." Paladino omitted the passage when he spoke to the crowd, but it was widely reported.
Late Sunday night, Paladino issued a statement saying he "did not agree with this passage, nor did I say it." He added, "I unequivocally have no other reservations about homosexuality and I abhor discrimination in any form. I enjoy a close relationship with my nephew who is gay and I certainly consider him to be a functional child of God."
It was the latest in a series of controversies to embroil Paladino, a 64-year-old Buffalo millionaire -- and admittedly unconventional candidate -- making his first try for elected office with a campaign cry of "I'm mad as hell."
Paladino won the Republican nomination despite revelations that he has forwarded racist and pornographic e-mails to friends.
And there were denunciations when he referred to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, as "a person who would fit the bill of an anti-Christ or a Hitler."
He later said he was not a bigot.
"I don't have an anti-Semitic bone in my body," he said.
More recently, Paladino has suggested -- without offering proof -- that Cuomo had cheated on his wife when he was married.