Democrat Andrew Cuomo's campaign for the governor of New York says his opponent, GOP candidate Carl Paladino, showed "a stunning homophobia'' in his remarks yesterday where he said he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality'' is acceptable.
The remarks were made to Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York City and follow a string of violent, hate-filled attacks on homosexuals in the tri-state area.
Speaking in Williamsburg, Paladino said "I didn't march in the 'Gay Pride' parade this year. My opponent did. ... That's not the example that we should be showing our children - and certainly not in our schools."
Cuomo's campaign released a statement after word of the remarks filtered out:
"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," his campaign said.
Both Cuomo and Paladino will march in today's Columbus Day parade in Manhattan.
During his trip through Brooklyn Sunday, Paladino also promised to veto a gay marriage bill -- which narrowly failed in Albany this year -- should it come across his desk if he were elected governor.
He skipped one line from his prepared text in his speech at the synagogue: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."
On the Today show Monday morning, Paladino sought to temper his comments, but then asked anchor Matt Lauer if he had ever been to a gay pride parade.
"They wear Speedos and grind against each other," he said, in explaining why he thought the scenario is unacceptable for children.
In a statement issued hours earlier, Paladino said he did not agree with the passage. He said the remarks were suggested by his "hosts at the synagogue." His campaign manager, Michael Caputo, told The New York Post that the congregation distributed the draft in Paladino's name without clearing it with the campaign. A message was left at the synagogue early Monday.
"In my speech today to Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York City, I noted my opposition to gay marriage, inspired by my Catholic beliefs," Paladino said in the statement. "I also oppose discrimination of any form."
Paladino was evasive on the Today Show when asked by Matt Lauer why he would allow text he didn't agree with to enter his speech.
Asked whether his comments were appropriate given the attack, Paladino said he does not support violence against gays.
"Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie," he said. "My approach is live and let live."
On ABC's "Good Morning America," he elaborated, saying, "I only have one problem with homosexuality, and that's their desire to be married, and beyond that I don't have a problem whatsoever."
Asked Monday on ABC whether his comments could be seen as insensitive in light of the recent violence, Paladino said no, adding that he believed his "comments were directed at the confusion that people have had over this issue."
"I wanted to clearly distinguish that my feelings about homosexuality were no different than those of the Catholic Church. I'm a Catholic. ... I wanted to make it clear what my position was, and I think I clearly defined it," he added.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, asked to comment on Paladino's earlier remarks, replied, "It's not what America stands for, and it's not what New York stands for, and I won't dignify it with anything else."
With just three weeks before the mid-term election a new poll found Cuomo an 18-point edge over Paladino, who has been having to defend his judgment and temperament during recent interviews.
The Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters shows, however, that among New Yorkers who describe themselves as "angry" voters, most prefer Paladino.
"Paladino's 'angry man' style gets a lot of attention, but he comes up negative on the personality test," said poll Director Maurice Carroll. "Less than a third of New Yorkers think he's right for the governor's job. Two-thirds say Cuomo is 'Mr. Personality.'"
The poll gives Cuomo a 55 percent to 37 percent lead.
In last week's poll, Quinnipiac questioned 1,141 likely voters from Oct. 1-5. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 points.