New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino fired back at claims that he's homophobic after his remarks to a Brooklyn group of Orthodox Jewish leaders set off an uproar yesterday.
On "Good Morning America," today Paladino said his comments were rooted in his Catholic faith and that he's "not homophobic."
"I only have one problem with homosexuality and that's their desire to be married. Beyond that, I don't have a problem whatsoever," Paladino said.
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.
At the gathering, Paladino said that he didn't want children being "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option."
Today, Paladino used his support of his gay nephew as proof that he is not homophobic.
"I have a nephew and my nephew is a wonderful boy and he's gay and I see the difficulty he suffers every day with discriminatory people," Paladino said.
Still, when asked by ABC News if he believed homosexuality was a choice, Paladino stumbled.
"I've had difficulty with that. My nephew tells me he didn't have that choice and I believe it's a very, very difficult life for a young person."
Cuomo and Paladino to March in Columbus Day Parade
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 on Sunday that he didn't march in "the gay parade this year -- the gay pride parade," while Cuomo did.
Today, Paladino stood by his statement about Cuomo's participation in the gay parade, saying that he thought it was inappropriate that Cuomo took his children to the parade. Paladino recounted a time in Canada when he and his wife "stumbled" upon a gay pride parade.
"It wasn't pretty. It was a bunch of very extreme type people in bikini type outfits grinding at each other and doing these gyrations and I certainly wouldn't let my young children see that," he said.
Today, Paladino and Cuomo are scheduled to participate in another parade, the Columbus Day march in New York.
Two gay Democrats, New York Assemblyman Thomas Duane and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said just before Monday's parade that Paladino should apologize for his remarks about gay culture.
Paladino representatives indicated he might not participate in the parade that has long been on his schedule.
Paladino Says Media and Cuomo Owe Him Apology
Not only did Paladino defend his statements today, but he said that he was owed an apology by both the media and his opponent, Cuomo.
"These remarks by Cuomo's camp and the news...are totally taken out of context," Paladino said.
The Cuomo campaign issued a statement denouncing the remarks last night.
"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.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate said that people were wrongly criticizing him for a comment he never made.
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.
"It was crossed off and I refused to say it because it's not true," Paladino said of the excised comment. "It's not the way I feel."
Several Controversies Surrounding Paladino
This is 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.
Paladino later said reporters should look into Cuomo's love life with the vigor they have looked into his personal affairs. Cuomo's "prowess is legendary," Paladino said.
Paladino's remarks about homosexuality came on a day that eight alleged gang members were arraigned in a vicious series of attacks on a gay man and two gay teens in the Bronx on Oct. 3 and on the eve of National Coming Out Day.
Paladino vowed that as governor he would veto any bill legalizing gay marriage or civil unions.