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Carl Paladino: I'm not Homophobic

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino arrives at the New York State Conservative Party meeting in Colonie, N.Y., Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010. Paladino received the Conservative Party backing in his run against Democrat Andrew Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Mike Groll

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino today pushed back against the widespread criticism he has received for making disparaging remarks about homosexuality in a speech at a synagogue Sunday. In a series of television interviews this morning, Paladino insisted he is not homophobic -- while standing by his remarks. He also said he is owed an apology from some in the media.

Paladino told Orthodox Jewish leaders Sunday that he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality" is acceptable, among other comments.

On the CBS "Early Show" today, the GOP candidate said he made the controversial remarks in an effort to clarify his position on gay marriage and homosexuality.

"I want to clearly define myself. I have of no reservations about gay people at all, none, except for one thing, their desire to get married," he said, adding that he has a gay nephew and gay staffers.

"Never had a problem with any of them, never had a problem in any sense with their lifestyle and we've talked about it often," he added. "...I talk to them about the discrimination that they suffer and I'm sensitive to it."

Paladino argued New York media outlets owed him apology for reporting that he said, "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual." That statement was included in his prepared remarks, which were worked out in conjunction with the conservative Jewish group to whom he was speaking, but Paladino never actually said that particular line.

"This thing was highlighted only because of the words that were on a written statement that I did not speak. I crossed them out," he said. "They were unacceptable to me, and that's the only reason we are talking about it today because those words were given by someone to the press and the press, in their own pariah way, needed to write something."

On NBC's "Today Show," Paladino added that he would "absolutely" recruit homosexuals into his administration were he elected governor. He again emphasized that he opposes gay marriage, not homosexuality itself.

Yet he also criticized his opponent, Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for bringing his daughters to a gay pride parade.

"Young children should not be exposed to that at a young age, they don't understand it," Paladino said. "Exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a gay pride parade... They wear these little speedos and they grind against each other, and it's just a terrible thing. Why would you bring your children to that."

On ABC's "Good Morning America," Paladino said his views are "no different than those of the Catholic church."

Paladino's campaign manager Michael Caputo told the New York Times that "The majority of New Yorkers agree with" Paladino, citing internal polling.

The Times reported in August that 58 percent of New Yorkers support gay marriage.

Paladino's comments have elicited angry reactions from both gay rights advocates and New York politicians.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is gay, told the New York Daily News that the comments were "dangerous."

"We need our elected officials to be leaders on diversity, not urging second-class citizenship for some groups," Quinn said.

Paladino's comments were delivered the same day eight men in New York were arraigned in a brutal anti-gay beating case.

"We've seen the very real harm this does over the past few weeks. Hate speech is never 'live and let live.' These words create a hostile environment," Sharon Stapel, director of the Anti-Violence Project, told the Daily News.

Some political commentators, such as Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly, have cast Paladino as a hypocrite for his comments about protecting children from certain lifestyles given that the candidate has a history of forwarding obscene and racist e-mails. Paladino has also acknowledged having an extramarital affair from which he fathered a child.

Polls show Cuomo far ahead of Paladino in the governor's race.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010


Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.