Carl Paladino to Andrew Cuomo: 'Come Out and Debate Like a Man!'

New York Republican candidate buys TV airtime to explain his combative behavior.

ByABC News
October 7, 2010, 6:32 PM

Oct. 7, 2010 — -- Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino tried to hit the reset button today on his faltering campaign for governor of New York, buying television airtime to explain his combative – and politically costly - behavior. He challenged his Democratic rival, Andrew Cuomo, to "come out and debate like a man."

Paladino spoke hours after a new Quinnipiac University poll showed Cuomo opening a wide lead among likely voters, 55 percent to 37 percent. Two weeks ago, a Quinnipiac poll found Cuomo leading Paladino by just six points, 49 percent to 43 percent.

Hoping to halt the slide, Paladino used his three-minute televised address to explain why he threatened to expose alleged extramarital affairs by Cuomo -- and then threatened to "take out" a reporter who asked him for proof.

Both incidents are widely acknowledged to have turned off many New Yorkers to Paladino, a first-time candidate trying to channel voter anger with an "I'm mad as Hell" campaign theme.

In his televised appearance, which aired at 5:13 p.m. on some upstate New York television stations, Paladino said he was upset that a newspaper tried to take pictures of his young daughter, whom he fathered as a result of an extramarital affair.

"I'm a builder, not a politician. When somebody went after my 10-year-old daughter, I got angry. This leaves my daughter vulnerable to kidnapping or sexual predators; it's outrageous," he said.

He added that for "weeks the media has badgered me about affairs, because unlike a career politican, I was honest enough" to admit to having had one.

"Does the media ask Andrew such questions?" said Paladino. "Andrew's prowess is legendary.  No, this campaign must be about bigger issues, not affairs or divorces, because our state is in a death spiral."

Paladino demanded that Cuomo, New York's attorney general, "stop the political posturing" and "come out and debate like a man." Aware that Paladino would make such a challenge, the Cuomo camp committed to an Oct. 18 debate on Long Island shortly before Paladino's broadside aired.

In a statement last night, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto belittled Paladino's comments, saying the Tea Party favorite "and his handlers can't con New Yorkers."

"They have seen the real Carl and they know he is unfit to be Governor with his unstable outbursts, smears, and total lack of substance. New Yorkers don't need his dysfunctional personality in Albany – Albany is dysfunctional enough. As we all know by now, Carl has a casual relationship with the truth," Vlasto said.