Democrat Andrew Cuomo says his opponent's comments about homosexuals are "reckless" in light of recent violence - but Republican Carl Paladino insists he is not anti-gay.
Both candidates spoke while appearing at the Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan.
Paladino said he stands up for the rights of everyone, including gay people, and abhors anti-gay violence.
Earlier Monday, Paladino said he does not discriminate but thinks young children shouldn't be exposed to "extremists" in gay culture. He used graphic terms while depicting behavior at gay pride parades.
On Sunday, Paladino told Orthodox Jewish leaders he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality" is just another lifestyle.
Cuomo called Paladino's remarks "reckless and divisive."
Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said Monday that he does not discriminate against gays but thinks young children shouldn't be exposed to gay culture, especially at gay pride parades.
"They wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other and it's just a terrible thing," Paladino said Monday on NBC's "Today" show. "Why would you bring your children to that?"
The candidate said he opposes same-sex marriage but would actively recruit gays to his administration. Mentioning his gay nephew, Paladino said the discrimination he and others face is a "very ugly experience."
Click on the video player below to watch Matt Lauer's interview with Paladino on the "Today" show.
His comments came a day after he told Orthodox Jewish leaders he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality" is acceptable.
Paladino, who has received tea party support, made the remarks 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 Sunday of being gay, "and that's not the example that we should be showing our children."
He also told the congregation 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."
On ABC's "Good Morning America," he elaborated on that, saying "I only have one problem with homosexuality, and that's their desire to be married, and beyond that I don't have a problem whatsoever."
Asked Monday on ABC if his comments could be seen as insensitive in light of a brutal gay-bashing incident in which two teenage boys and a man were tortured in the Bronx, Paladino said no, adding that he believed his "comments were directed at the confusion that people have had over this issue.
"I wanted to clearly distinguish that my feelings about homosexuality were no different than those of the Catholic Church. I'm a Catholic. ... I wanted to make it clear what my position was and I think I clearly defined it," he added.
On both ABC and NBC, Paladino said he crossed out a line from his prepared text at the synagogue that stated: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."
"I did not say that. It's unacceptable. I crossed it out in the car. I did not say it," he said on "Today."
He said he didn't know who included it in a draft of his remarks, but it was not a member of his staff.
On "Good Morning America," he added that even though he chose not to make those comments, someone at the synagogue distributed his original prepared remarks that included that wording.
"I refused to say that because it's not true. It's not how I feel about things," he said.
"In my speech today to Orthodox Jewish leaders in New York City, I noted my opposition to gay marriage, inspired by my Catholic beliefs," Paladino said in a statement late Sunday. "I also oppose discrimination of any form."
A message left at the synagogue early Monday was not immediately returned.
Church teaching holds that followers should refrain from discriminating against gays but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."
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 hours after eight people were arraigned in an attack on a gay man and two gay teens in the Bronx on October 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."
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 Andrew 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.