NEW YORK (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino told Orthodox Jewish leaders on Sunday that there's "nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."
Paladino, who has received tea party support, made the comments at a synagogue in Brooklyn's Williamsburg section while trying to strike a contrast between himself and his Democratic rival, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Paladino said he chose not to march in this summer's gay pride parade but his opponent did.
"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.
While Paladino, a multimillionaire developer from Buffalo, has stated that he is opposed to gay marriage, his most recent comments were striking because they came as eight people were arraigned Sunday in an attack on a gay man and two gay teens in the Bronx on Oct. 3.
Asked whether his comments were appropriate given the attack, Paladino said he does not support violence against gays.
"Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie," he said. "My approach is live and let live."
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, who apologized for forwarding racist and sexist e-mails early on in his campaign to replace Democratic Gov. David Paterson, was campaigning on Sunday through traditionally Jewish conservative neighborhoods of Brooklyn, stopping at a rabbinical college in Borough Park, before eating lunch at Gottlieb's deli in Williamsburg and then ending his tour at the synagogue.
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.