NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) — A firestorm has engulfed New York’s race for governor.
Republican candidate Carl Paladino is on the hot seat over comments he made about homosexuals.
It’s drawing national attention, but the blunt speaking businessman isn’t backing down.
In fact, he’s upping the ante, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Paladino tried to give out lollipops at Monday’s Columbus Day parade, but he was mobbed by reporters after he told a Brooklyn Hassidic group he didn’t want kids “brainwashed” into thinking gay marriage is a “valid” option.
“I unequivocally support all gay rights, all gay rights except the right to be married. I’m a Catholic and I believe in Catholic values,” Paladino said.
With reporters swarming all over him Paladino said he isn’t homophobic, and will hire gays in his administration if he gets elected, but he was sharply critical of a decision by Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo to march in a gay pride parade with his young daughters.
The two combatants went mano-e-mano on that one.
“Have you ever been to one? The men wear little Speedos and they grind on each other. Would you take your children there? I don’t think so,” Paladino said.
“Marcia, he’s probably the last person I’ll take advice from on how to raise my daughters,” Cuomo told Kramer.
To which Paladino replied, “That’s just wonderful. That’s good. I think he’s already displayed his lack of interest maybe in being a good father.”
Cuomo was also mobbed by reporters. He was clearly upset by Paladino’s remarks and tried to lob a broadside of his own at the blunt speaking businessman’s comments.
“They were reckless in light of all the recent violence that we’ve had. They were divisive. They were the worst cynical politics trying to pit people against one another, trying to pit groups against one another,” Cuomo said. “It is repugnant to the content of what New York is.”
Getting back to Paladino’s blunt talk on gays, he said Monday he does not think it makes him unfit to be governor, quite the contrary.
“There are many people in New York who find me very fit because I do speak on issues and I do stand up for the rights of the people, all the people, all the time, including all homosexuals, yes,” Paladino said.
But a version of the speech handed out by a rabbi had some things Paladino didn’t say, including a charge that “there is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”
Paladino said he didn’t write the speech, but when it was handed to him he crossed that line out.
“That section of my presentation was written and it was handed to a staffer,” Paladino said.
So who did write the speech? Sources tell Kramer it appeared to have been written by a man named Yhehuda Levin, who acted as an emissary from Paladino to the Orthodox community. The rabbis Paladino visited in Brooklyn told Kramer his views reflected their Orthodox views, but they don’t reflect the views of groups dealing with gays.
“We’re sending a message to young people that it’s okay to discriminate, it’s okay to commit violent acts, that it’s okay for gay kids to kill themselves and that’s not okay, particularly in a place in a country that supposedly values all of us,” said Jarrett Barrios of The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The firestorm had Paladino’s various political backers at odds. Republican State Chairman Edward Cox said while he condemns any remark that could be construed as homophobic, Paladino is more than capable of speaking for himself.
“The man enunciated that he is for traditional marriage. He’s opposed to same-sex marriage,” said New York State Conservative Party chairman Michael Long.
Long said he thought Paladino’s remarks showed that he and Cuomo had different views on such social issues as gay marriage.
“I think it’s becoming very difficult to be for traditional values in our society today and when one does stand for traditional values they get slammed for it,” Long said.
The campaign rhetoric is probably not going to stop until Election Day. Paladino and Cuomo will meet face to face for the first time next Monday at a debate.
Paladino told Kramer he’s got some other things he wants to make public then.