ALBANY, N.Y. — Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino rails against gay marriage and called the bumping-and-griding at gay pride parades disgusting. He also once was the landlord for two gay clubs in Buffalo.
The real estate deal, first reported Wednesday by the New York Daily News, left Democrats calling him a hypocrite. Paladino's campaign said it proved that he supports gay rights, just not gay marriage. Meanwhile, a rabbi who represents an umbrella organization of ultra-Orthodox clerics said he was dropping his endorsement of Paladino because the candidate had apologized for the harsh wording of some of his comments about gays.
Paladino's campaign has acknowledged recent mistakes have hurt his candidacy as it tries to overcome Democrat Andrew Cuomo's double-digit lead in the polls. The Republican's poll numbers had been slipping since late September, when he was caught on video loudly arguing with a reporter over Paladino's unsubstantiated claim that Cuomo had extramarital affairs. Late Wednesday, a political website, WNYMedia.net, released pornographic e-mails forwarded under Paladino's company account; it's the second batch of embarrassing messages linked to the candidate, who has already apologized for forwarding racist and sexist e-mails.
The latest conflict began Sunday night, when Paladino told Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York that he opposes gay marriage and doesn't want children being "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option." He also told the rabbis, "That's not how God created us, and that's not the example that we should be showing our children."
The next day, he said he was referring only to his opposition to gay marriage, then added that young children shouldn't be exposed to homosexuality, especially at gay pride parades.
On Tuesday, Paladino apologized for using harsh words, such as "brainwashed," but not his opposition to gay marriage.
"I sincerely apologize for any comment that may have offended the gay and lesbian community or their family members. Any reference to branding an entire community based on a small representation of them is wrong," he said in a statement. "The portrayal of me as anti-gay is inconsistent with my lifelong beliefs and actions and my prior history as a father, employer and friend to many in the gay and lesbian community."
That apology lost Paladino an endorsement Wednesday. Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin, one of his hosts on Sunday, withdrew his support and accused Paladino of bowing to political pressure. Levin says he was told by the campaign that Paladino apologized at the urging of family members, because his nephew is gay.
Paladino spokesman Michael Caputo told The Associated Press that the rabbi and Paladino "agree on many things and disagree on some, too. He's entitled to his opinion."
Being a landlord to two gay clubs in Buffalo "was a clear example of how Carl Paladino doesn't discriminate against the gay community in business," Caputo said. "Carl not only rented to the clubs — he had a good working relationship with them throughout their tenancy."
Cuomo wouldn't comment. Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, head of the party's state committee, said Paladino's "extremism is outdone only by his hypocrisy."
Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, who is critical to Paladino's chances for winning Nov. 2, said Paladino had better get back to his primary message of cutting taxes and state spending.
As for the leases with gay clubs, Long says it shows "he has no prejudices."
"He is not a slick politician," Long said of Paladino, his party's nominee. "He may at times be somewhat gruff, but anything I saw — and I watched all his interviews — I didn't see any meanness."
The New York Post reported a brief interview with Paladino's gay nephew, Jeff Hannon, saying, "Obviously, I'm very offended by his comments." He declined further comment. The nephew continues to work on the campaign, Caputo said.
Associated Press writers Samantha Gross and Ula Ilnytzky in New York City contributed to this report.
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