Carl Paladino: I Have 'Difficulty' Deciding if Homosexuality Is a Choice

That's what the Republican nominee for governor of New York told me this morning when I asked if he thinks people have a choice to be gay.

“I’ve had difficulty with that. My nephew tells me he didn’t have that choice. And I believe it’s a very, very difficult life for a young person,” Carl Paladino told me. “I believe that young people should not necessarily be exposed to that without some really, really mature background first before, so they can learn to deal with it. It is a very difficult thing. And I sensitize with it totally.”

The Tea Party backed candidate drew fire last night following remarks before Orthodox Jewish leaders because he told them he does not want his children “to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option- it isn't.”

“I think my comments were directed at just 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. 7.5 million Catholics in the state of New York. I wanted to make it clear what my position was and I think I clearly defined it,” he said on “GMA.”

But it’s what Paladino didn’t say that has drawn the most attention. Included in his prepared text is the sentence “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual”– however, Paladino did not say that to the group.

Paladino told me he dictated general remarks to an aide who put that sentence in there – but he said it is not what he believes.

“My first reading of it was really quickly in the car just as we were getting out and I saw that remark and I crossed it out on my sheets,” he said. “And I got inside and I read my remarks and afterwards somebody in the rabbinical group distributed…what had originally been prepared, but it was crossed off and I refused to say it.”

The opposing candidate’s campaign – Andrew Cuomo—released a statement saying Paladino’s remarks showed “stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality.”

Paladino, who said his only problem with homosexuality is “their desire to be married,” said Cuomo’s campaign has been throwing charges at him for months. “First he called me an anti-Semitic and yesterday we met with 200 orthodox Jewish leaders and they embraced us…And then he called me a racist and once again the people of western New York who I have know my entire career they came out and they said ‘No, he is not a racist,’” he said. “They called [me] anti-female and some other things, now he called me a homophobic. I’m not a homophobic.”

Watch my interview with Paladino here and then weigh in below.

-- George Stephanopoulos

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