Skip to main content

Paladino defends comments, decries behavior at gay pride parade

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Paladino: Homosexuality not valid
  • New York AG says he rejects opponent Carl Paladino's advice on raising daughters
  • Gubernatorial candidate Paladino denies being homophobic
  • He says the behavior he saw at a gay pride parade was "a terrible thing"
  • Paladino on Sunday said homosexuality isn't "equally valid" with heterosexuality

New York (CNN) -- A day after saying homosexuality is not "an equally valid or successful option," New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino denied being anti-gay Monday but said it was "disgusting" that his opponent took his children to a gay pride parade.

"I've been to one (parade) in Toronto. I saw the men in their little Speedos, gyrating on each other. I think that's disgusting. And any father who would take his children to such things, is not really thinking of the fatherly responsibilities -- is more interested in politics," Paladino told CNN at the Columbus Day Parade in New York City.

Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general and Paladino's Democratic opponent, shot back later Monday: "He's probably the last person I'll take advice from ... on how to raise my daughters."

Paladino drew fire for a remark he made to an Orthodox Jewish group on Sunday, in which he said he doesn't want children "to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option (compared with heterosexuality) ... it isn't."

Video: Carl Paladino under fire
Video: Paladino, reporter exchange words
Video: Paladino talks issues

Cuomo criticized his remarks Sunday, as did an advocate for gays and lesbians and an organization for gay and lesbian Republicans.

Paladino defended that remark Monday, telling both "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America" that he was referring to the difficult path homosexuals face because of discrimination.

"It's a very, very ugly experience for those who are discriminated against," he told "Today," adding that he has a nephew who is homosexual and also has homosexuals working for him. "It's terrible, and it shouldn't be. Society should be more accepting of it."

"When I talk about issues such as this, I talk from my heart," he told NBC, "and I expect that the press will properly interpret my remarks. If they don't interpret my remarks correctly ... that's wrong."

"My nephew is a wonderful boy and he's gay," he told "Good Morning America." "I see the difficulty he suffers with every day with discriminatory people."

Paladino's nephew, Jeffrey Hannon, a member of his campaign staff, declined to comment when contacted by CNN early Monday.

Asked whether he believes homosexuality is a choice, Paladino said, "I've had difficulty with that. My nephew tells me he didn't have that choice, and I believe it's a very, very difficult life for a young person. I believe that young people should not necessarily be exposed to that without some really, really mature background first so they can learn to deal with it. It's a very difficult thing, and I sensitize with it totally."

He said his Sunday remarks were taken out of context. A prepared version of his remarks, obtained by CNN from New York affiliate NY1, contained two lines that Paladino did not deliver. Those lines said, "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual. That is not how God created us."

Paladino emphasized in a statement Sunday night that he did not include those lines when he delivered his remarks, and said Monday he had crossed them out from his prepared remarks.

"There was a couple lines in there that I deleted and never spoke, purposefully, because I didn't want to," he told CNN.

It was unclear, however, how the lines got into his prepared statements. Paladino at first suggested to "Today" that the lines were written by members of the Jewish group he was speaking to, although he later said he wasn't sure whether they originated with a group member or one of his staff. He told "Good Morning America" he had dictated in general terms his remarks to a staffer who put the lines in his remarks.

Paladino told CNN he didn't know who wrote the remarks. "Somebody wrote them and gave them to our staff as their suggested position on something," he said.

In his Sunday statement, Paladino said, "Apparently a few reporters relied upon suggested remarks distributed by my hosts at the synagogue in Williamsburg after my departure, not the actual statement I made."

The written remarks given to reporters were identical to Paladino's spoken comments other than the two sentences in question.

Paladino on Monday denied being homophobic.

"I am 100 percent in favor of all gay rights and always have been. There's one reservation. I don't think they should be married," he told CNN.

He told NBC he would recruit homosexuals to serve in key roles in his government if he is elected.

Paladino's Monday remarks came the same day New York police announced the arrest of an ninth suspect in a series of brutal, anti-gay hate crimes against four men.

The incident in early October involved three victims being held against their will by as many as nine assailants who beat them in a vacant apartment and sodomized two of them, police said. A fourth victim was beaten and robbed in connection with the attacks.

"Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way," Paladino said Sunday. "That would be a dastardly lie -- my approach is live and let live."

"I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family," he said.

Asked on Monday whether the timing of his remark was poor, given the incident, Paladino said no. "I think my comments were directed at just the confusion that people have had over this issue," he said.

Paladino also criticized Cuomo for marching in New York's gay pride parade in June.

"That's not the example that we should be showing the children and certainly not in our schools," he said.

Asked about Paladino's comments later Monday, Cuomo called them cynical and divisive.

"They were reckless in light of recent violence that we've had," Cuomo said. "They were divisive, they were the worst cynical politics trying to pit groups against one another."

New York "celebrates our diversity" with festivities such as the Columbus Day parade and the gay rights parade, he said. "You're not going to make it a negative, you're not going to play one off against another. We won't let it happen in New York."

On Sunday, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto called Paladino's comments homophobic and said they showed he was "unfit to represent New York."

Gay rights groups also criticized Paladino's remarks.

"Carl Paladino's comments would matter if they were coming from a serious political figure. However, they are not," said Christopher Barron, chairman of the gay conservative group GOProud, in an e-mail to CNN. "They are instead coming from the imploding campaign of a man with the personal baggage of John Edwards and all the electability of Alan Keyes."

The Log Cabin Republicans of New York State also took issue with the candidate.

"Carl Paladino's statements are unfortunate and show he lacks an understanding of what it means to be gay," said Gregory T. Angelo, chairman of the group. "I think gay men and women -- my neighbors and your neighbors -- would be much better off and much more successful if they were allowed equal rights and the option of getting married and raising a family. I don't want New Yorkers to be brainwashed into thinking that ignorance is an equally valid and successful option. It isn't."

But Paladino's campaign manager, Michael Caputo, stood by the gubernatorial candidate's comments on homosexuality.

"Carl Paladino's position on this is exactly equivalent to the Catholic Church," Caputo told CNN. "And if Andrew Cuomo has a problem with the Catholic Church's position on abortion and homosexuality, he needs to take it up with his parish priest."

Paladino was seen on cell phone video by CNN affiliate YNN Albany last month seemingly threatening New York Post statehouse columnist Fred Dicker, after he was pressed to back up allegations he'd made that Cuomo had been unfaithful in his marriage.

"You send another goon to my daughter's house, and I'll take you out, buddy," Paladino said, apparently referring to the Post's coverage of a daughter the candidate had out of wedlock.

Dicker shot back: "You gonna take me out?"


"How you gonna do that?"

"Watch," Paladino said before walking off.

Paladino's campaign issued a statement the next day claiming that the Post sent a photographer to the Buffalo-area house where Paladino's 10-year-old daughter lives.

On October 5, a statement on the candidate's website about his ideas for economic reform in the state said, "I'm a builder, not a career politician. I may not always say things in the most delicate or diplomatic way, but I will always tell you the truth and the truth is New York State is in a death spiral."

CNN's Cheryl Robinson, Mark Preston and Jason Kessler contributed to this report.