Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino apologized to the gay community Tuesday for what he called his "poorly chosen words" over the weekend as he sought to steer his troubled campaign back to the tax issues that won him the GOP nomination in September.
"I am neither perfect, nor a career politician," Paladino said in an e-mail distributed by his flagging campaign. "I have made mistakes in this campaign - I have made mistakes all my life - as we all have. I am what I am - a simple man who works hard, trusts others, and loves his family and fears for the future of our state."
He apologized and said he should have edited more of the phrasing out of a speech he gave to Orthodox Jewish leaders on Sunday. His speech did include opposition to what he said was schools' "brainwashing" of students into thinking the gay lifestyle is just another choice. He also said being gay is "not the way God created us" and the gay lifestyle is "not the example that we should be showing our children."
At a fundraiser in an Albany suburb Monday, Paladino said as governor he will "stand and fight for all gay New Yorkers' rights," except for the right to marry. He blamed some of the latest controversy on press reports that included phrases that were in an earlier version of the speech that the Orthodox leaders had distributed to reporters but that he had struck out before delivering it.
Afterward, his campaign manager, Michael Caputo, said it was his fault and that he wasn't just trying to deflect blame from the millionaire Buffalo developer.
Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo declined comment Tuesday. On Monday, he called Paladino's comments "reckless and divisive," saying New York needs tolerance, not someone to pit one group against another.
The state Democratic Party that Cuomo directs called Paladino's apology a "non-apology," two days late.
"Non-apology is not accepted," said state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.
New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, who is openly gay, also rejected Paladino's apology.
"If he truly wanted to apologize he would pick up the phone and call any number of people from the LGBT community who could tell him why his remarks over the past several days, including but not limited to those made over the weekend, are so outrageous and dangerous," she said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Paladino tried to cut off more questions about the latest furor over his conservative social views in the blue state.
"I'm staying on message," he said.
His first statewide TV ad since the Sept. 14 primary began airing Tuesday through his upstate base and in the far more expensive New York City market. Caputo wouldn't say how much the ad cost, but with broadcast and cable coverage in the city the cost is likely over $1 million.
The ad repeats Paladino's original mantra of cutting taxes by 10 percent and cutting state spending by 20 percent. He also promises to attack corruption by pushing for new laws that would require lawmakers to disclose their outside income and clients.
"Unemployment is at record levels," Paladino states in the 30-second spot. "The state budget is out of control. Taxes are driving good jobs and companies from our state.
"Albany insiders like Andrew Cuomo have failed us," Paladino said. "Albany needs a major overhaul and I've got a plan to do it."
Absent from the rhetoric was Paladino's previous use of the phrases of "taking a baseball bat to Albany" to "take out the trash." A week ago, he promised a "kinder, gentler" manner. That came after his rough language and an angry confrontation with a reporter appeared in polls to blunt his rise in popularity after his shocking, landslide win in the GOP primary.
Cuomo's campaign said the ad was "in hopes of drowning out the criticism (Paladino has) received for his extremist views. We can't let him get away with distorting the truth."
The fundraising letter says Paladino "is trying to win this election by setting New Yorkers against each other. But in these difficult times, we need to come together to get our state back on track."
The letter says it's time to ignore Paladino's "distractions" to enact needed reforms.