NEW YORK-As New York reels from a wave of anti-gay violence and bullying, GOP gubernatorial candidate "Crazy Carl" Paladino added to the hateful atmosphere by unleashing a stream of anti-LGBT vitriol.
"We must stop pandering to the pornographers and the perverts who seek to target our children and destroy their lives," Paladino said at an event, October 10. "I didn't march in the ... gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that's not the example that we should be showing our children, and certainly not in our schools."
He added that "children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising children, and I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option."
Over the past few weeks, a Rutgers student committed suicide after his roommate posted a video of him involved in a gay relationship on the internet and members of the "Latin King Goonies," a Bronx gang, viciously assaulted and sodomized three men for being gay. These are part of a larger string of anti-LGBT assaults.
Paladino has since publicly backtracked by apologizing for way his speech sounded - but not its content. During the speech itself, Paladino anticipated a public backlash, saying, "Don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live."
LGBT groups and allies, however, charge that Paladino, by adding to an already bad atmosphere, has in fact "hurt homosexual people" by causing young people to question their own self worth and by encouraging gay bashers - the two most important ingredients in the recent spate of hate crimes.
According to Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese "Carl Paladino has made himself the poster boy for the kind of divisive leadership that makes young LGBT people question their self-worth and gives license to those who use violence to advance their hate."
"Carl Paladino," he continued, "should think about how young LGBT people feel when he tells a crowded room that they're not as ‘valid' or will be as ‘successful' as someone else."
State Sen. Tom Duane, D-Manhattan, the only openly gay member of the State Senate, condemned Paladino's remarks about the LGBT community and more generally, calling the Republican "a candidate who speaks of ''taking a baseball bat to Albany' when baseball bats have all too often been weapons in anti-LGBT and other hate crimes."
The story of Paladino's speeches becomes stranger still. In the prepared version of his first speech, distributed to his audience, there was an additional line: "There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual."
Paladino didn't read that line aloud, and says he didn't write it - or the speech at all - either. Now no one is sure who wrote it. One of the rabbis, Yehuda Levin, who acts as Paladino's adviser representing the extreme right-wing of Brooklyn's Orthodox community, says he penned the speech. In addition, Paladino's campaign treasurer, Michael Caputo, claims to have written another speech with similar themes, read later in the day.
"The good news," said Duane, "is that Mr. Paladino has zero chance of becoming governor."
Photo: Participant in NYC’s 2010 Pride Parade asterix611 // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0