Following a firestorm of criticism, the Republican candidate for governor in New York, Carl Paladino, attempted Monday to soften his denunciation of homosexuality one day earlier in a speech before Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn.
In reiterating his opposition to same-sex marriage, Paladino told the Jewish leaders that children shouldn’t be “brainwashed” into believing that homosexuality is valid. He also denounced his Democratic opponent, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching this year in New York’s LGBT Pride parade.
“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 — it isn’t,” he said in his speech.
According to a recording of his speech made available to the media, Paladino added, “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year – the Gay Pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.”
Log Cabin Republicans of New York, a gay group, joined other LGBT organizations and activists in criticizing Paladino for disparaging the LGBT community shortly after news surfaced of a rash of gay teen suicides brought about by anti-gay bullying and harassment.
Paladino’s speech before the Orthodox Jewish congregation also came two days after New York City police announced the arrest of eight youths charged with torturing and beating three gay men in the Bronx in an incident described by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one of the most shocking hate crimes ever committed in the city.
“By his own words, Carl Paladino has made himself the poster boy for the kind of divisive leadership that makes young LGBT people question their self-worth and gives license to advance their hate,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
In an appearance on the “Today” show on Monday, Paladino said he is not anti-gay and believes discrimination against gays is “horrible … terrible.”
He told “Today” show host Matt Lauer that the “brainwashed” remark in his speech was intended to convey his opposition to same-sex marriage and his concern that “children should not be exposed” to homosexuality at a young age.
“They don’t understand this,” he said. “It’s a very difficult thing. And exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a Gay Pride parade — and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one — but they wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other. It’s a terrible thing.”
He said he would “absolutely” hire gay people to work in his administration as governor, adding, “You name it. Wherever their expertise may be, we’ll put them in our government.”
Gregory Angelo, chair of the New York Log Cabin Republicans, said his group had reached out to Paladino earlier this year, with the hope that he would express support for board principles of LGBT equality. But he said Paladino’s latest comments on homosexuality made it “very unlikely” that the group would endorse him for governor.
“Carl Paladino’s statements are unfortunate and show he lacks an understanding of what it means to be gay,” Angelo said.
Referring to Paladino’s comment about brainwashing, Angelo added, “I don’t want New Yorkers to be brainwashed into thinking that ignorance is an equally valid and successful option. It isn’t.”
The latest public opinion polls show Cuomo leading Paladino in the race. But with Paladino declaring himself a Tea Party candidate, some political observers say he has a shot at winning if Democratic voters don’t turn out at the polls in large numbers. Cuomo is a long-time supporter of LGBT rights and said he would sign a same-sex marriage bill.
Paladino said he would veto such a bill if the Legislature passes it.