NEW YORK — 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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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."
"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.
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.
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 replave 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.