Image: Carl Paladino
Kathy Willens  /  AP
New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said Monday that he has "absolutely no problem" with homosexuality.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 10/11/2010 10:30:26 AM ET 2010-10-11T14:30:26

The Republican candidate for governor of New York said Monday that he does not regret controversial statements he made about homosexuality and gay marriage because "the remarks that I made I believe in."

"I'm only responsible for what I say," Carl Paladino told NBC's TODAY. "And I've always stood behind everything that I've said."

Statements Paladino made to a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn on Sunday — including one about people being "brainwashed" about gay issues — have sparked outrage from critics.

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"My feelings on homosexuality are unequivocal; I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. My only reservation is marriage," Paladino said. The gubernatorial hopeful noted during the interview that he would recruit gays to serve in his administration and currently has homosexual staffers working on his campaign.

"I say that unequivocally I will be a governor for all the people of the state of New York and I've never moved off of that position," Paladino added.

Video: Paladino: Kids shouldn’t see Speedo-clad men ‘grinding’ (on this page)

He said, however, that he took issue with the decision of his opponent, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to take his two daughters to a gay pride parade.

"I don't think it's proper for them to go there and watch a couple of grown men grind against each other. I don't think that's proper, I think it's disgusting," Paladino said. 

'Dysfunctional homosexual'
Paladino's campaign had said that several media outlets initially reported that the gubernatorial hopeful had said: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."

He said he had read the written remarks before speaking publicly, but crossed that particular line out.

"I did not say that. That's unacceptable," Paladino said in the interview with TODAY. Paladino did not specify who wrote it, but said no one from his staff did.

But the other comments Paladino made Sunday are still drawing outrage.

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"That's not how God created us," Paladino said of being gay, "and that's not the example that we should be showing our children."

He added that children who later in life choose to marry people of the opposite sex and raise families would be "much better off and much more successful."

Story: New York gubernatorial hopeful slams gays

"I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option," he said.

Of that remark, Paladino said Monday: "I'm talking about young children. Young children should not be exposed to that at a young age, they don't understand it."

Paladino, who has received Tea Party support, made the comments at a synagogue in Brooklyn's Williamsburg area while trying to strike a contrast between himself and his Democratic rival.

'Stunning homophobia'
A Cuomo campaign spokesman, Josh Vlasto, said Paladino's comments demonstrate "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," Vlasto said.

Paladino's comments were striking because they came hours after eight people were arraigned in an attack on a gay man and two gay teens in the Bronx on Oct. 3.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Cuomo supporter who is the city's highest-ranking openly gay official, said Paladino's statements "are not only deeply offensive, but they are dangerous" given the Bronx incidents and the suicides of gay Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and several others, Politico reported.

Asked on Sunday whether his comments were appropriate given the attack, Paladino said he does not support violence against gays.

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Asked if his comments could still incite similar activity, Paladino said, "I hope not. I was trying to define myself very clearly as opposed to Mr. Cuomo," and again referenced his rival's visit to a gay pride parade.

"It's a very, very ugly experience for those that are discriminated against, it's terrible, and it shouldn't be. Our society should be more accepting," said Paladino, who had earlier in the interview referenced his gay nephew, who he said has suffered such discrimination.

But Quinn indicated a belief that Paladino's statements from Sunday represent a larger problem.

"We need our elected officials to be leaders on diversity, not urging second-class citizenship for some groups of people," her statement added, according to Politico.

Paladino, a multimillionaire developer from Buffalo, has previously stated that he is opposed to gay marriage.

Paladino, who apologized for forwarding racist and sexist e-mails early on in his campaign to replace Democratic Gov. David Paterson, was campaigning on Sunday through traditionally Jewish conservative neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

Recent polls have showed Cuomo with a big lead over Paladino in the governor's race. Several minor-party candidates also are seeking to replace Paterson, who took office after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer stepped down in a prostitution scandal but isn't seeking election to a full term.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Paladino: Kids shouldn’t see Speedo-clad men ‘grinding’

  1. Closed captioning of: Paladino: Kids shouldn’t see Speedo-clad men ‘grinding’

    >> mr. paladino, welcome back, good to see you. if you are elected governor of new york , will you active le re lere -- actively recruit gays in.

    >> wherever their expertise might be, we'll put them in our government.

    >> and it doesn't matter if those people talk about being openly gay , even if they have been brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid sexual option?

    >> that remark has to do with schooling children. my feelings on homosexuality are unequivocal, i have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. my only reservation is marriage. that's the only reservation i have. i have a lot of homosexuals working in my organization.

    >> but you didn't say that you don't want children to be brainwashed into thinking that gay marriage is an equally valid or successful option, you said to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option. first of all an option, if it's not equally valid or successful, is it a stupid option?

    >> the discrimination against homosexuals is horrible, it's terrible.

    >> did you talk to your nephew before you said that?

    >> i have talked to him.

    >> i'm not talking about him being brainwashed. i'm talking about young children. young children should not be exposed to that at a young age, they don't understand it. it's a very difficult thing and exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a gay pride parade and i don't know if you have ever been to one, but they wear these little speedos and they grind against each other and it's just a terrible thing.

    >> let's use the second part of the quote, that homosexuality is an equally or successful option. one can only deduce from that comment that you do not think that the homosexual lifestyle is equal to the heterosexual lifestyle.

    >> it's a very, very ugly, okay, experience for those that are discriminated against, it's terrible, and it shouldn't be. our society should be more accepting.

    >> but don't comments like that create more discrimination? if the lifestyle isn't as valid or successful, why shouldn't people treat homosexuals the same way as they treat heterosexuals?

    >> if the press doesn't interpret my remarks properly and they want to skewer them, that's wrong where i come from.

    >> when you say your talk from your heart, my impression of that remark was that you weren't speaking from your heart that you were reading from notes.

    >> that section of my presentation was written, okay, and it was handed to a staffer and it was put into the -- i crossed it out, i crossed out the --

    >> if that's the way it works, you agree to go speak to a group and that group gets to write the comments you need to make before that group?

    >> it was a discussion and they went too far in that discussion, and i crossed all that stuff out. the only part that i said was what you just quoted.

    >> i don't know whether it was the one of the leaders of the group that you were talking to or one of your staff members, actually had a line that said homosexuality is dysfunctional.

    >> i did not say that. that's unacceptable.

    >> was that written by a staff member or was that written by the a member of the group you were talking to?

    >> i crossed it out in the car and i didn't say it and to repeat it is wrong.

    >> let's say a staff member of yours wrote it.

    >> a staff member did not write it.

    >> so a member of the congregation did.

    >> somebody wrote that paragraph.

    >> if you're running for the highest office in the state of new york and you show up at events and they hand you a piece of paper and say here, that is what you have to say.

    >> i read it and i crossed out that remark about dysfunctional. that is not me, period.

    >> you said you aren't calling for people to harm homosexuals, my approach is live and let live . do you think anybody watching that event and watching you read those words gets the live and let live part of that philosophy?

    >> i would hope so because that's me.

    >> we have gone through a period of time in recent weeks where there's been violence against homosexuals, three men were attacked, i believe it was in brooklyn, in the bronx, excuse me. there was an attack at the famous stone wall in. there was a suicide of a gay student at rutgers. you're saying you don't want to bring harm to homosexuals, but are you worried that you might incite someone that's not as open minded as you claim to be?

    >> mr. cuomo took his daughters to a guy pride parade , is that normal? would you do it? would you take your children to a gay pride parade ?

    >> i think you can probably expose your children to a lot of different things and help them make a decision.

    >> i don't think you should go and watch grown men grind against each other, i think it's disgusting. that days before the primary, the poll had me down one point, i won by 26 points, you tell me how valid the polls are this year. the polls are all messed up because they can't predict the turnout. if they could predict the turnout, they might be a little bit better, but they're all over the place. i didn't listen to the polls, the polls that i will listen to is on november 2.

    >> speaking to the voters in new york who are trying to make up their minds in this kras right now, can you speak to them and tell them that you will be a governor for all the people of new york and open minded about who you will include in your administration and your government?

    >> i say unequivocally that i will be a governor for all the people of new york and i have never moved off of that position. and yes, it got confused, but this is a clear illustration.

    >> do you regret the remark?

    >> no, i don't regret the remark, the remarks that i made believe in. the remark that was deleted is nobody's business, it was put in there by somebody and i'm not responsible for that, i'm only responsible for what i say. and i have always stood by whatever i say. it started by anti-semitic. and i met with 200 jewish leaders yesterday and they embrace me. and they don't believe that i'm anti-semit anti-semitic. all the people in buffalo came out and said he's not a racist and now we're into phase three and the press keeps doing andrew's work. but i'm fine with that. we'll keep vetting out issues and we're going to have some none next week at the debate because andrew has to account for himself.

    >> carl paladino, i appreciate you coming back.

Vote: Are Carl Paladino's comments appropriate for a prospective governor?