NBC's Matt Lauer questioned Carl Paladino on Monday's Today about his recent controversial remarks on homosexuality, and hinted that his comments might prompt "violence against homosexuals" and suicides of homosexual youth, such as the recent case at Rutgers. When Paladino attacked Andrew Cuomo for taking his children to a "gay pride" parade, Lauer implied that he might take his kids to such an event.
The NBC morning show led the 7 am Eastern hour with a promo on Paladino's Sunday speech to orthodox Jewish leaders: "Anti-gay? New York's Republican gubernatorial candidate stirs up another controversy with comments on homosexuality. Was he being homophobic, as his opponent claims? We'll ask Carl Paladino in a live interview."
Six minutes later, Lauer introduced the New York Republican and first asked him, "If you are elected governor of New York, will you actively recruit gays to serve in key roles in your administration? In which roles?" It didn't take long for the anchor to pounce on Paladino's remarks:
LAUER: And it doesn't matter that- if those people talk about being openly gay, it doesn't matter whatsoever, even if they have been brainwashed into thinking that homosexually (sic) is an equally valid or successful option?
PALADINO: Well, that remark has to do with schooling children. My feelings on homosexuality are unequivocal. I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. My only reservation is marriage. That's the only reservation I have. I have a lot of homosexuals working in my organization.
LAUER But you didn't say that you don't want children to be brainwashed into thinking that gay marriage is an equally valid or successful option- you said to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option. First of all, an option; secondly, if it's not equally valid or successful, is it a stupid option? Is it a deviant option? What is it?
Lauer continued his line of questioning moments later when the candidate mentioned how he has a homosexual nephew: "Does he think that he has been brainwashed into believing homosexually (sic) is an equally valid or successful option?"
Later in the segment, the NBC anchor brought up another portion of Paladino's comments: "You said that you want people to understand you aren't calling for people to harm homosexualities (sic), and 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. Do you think anybody watching that event and watching you read those words gets the live and let live part of that philosophy?" After the Republican simply answered, "Oh, I would hope so, because that's me," Lauer raised the violence/suicide issues:
LAUER: We've gone through a period of time in recent weeks here where there's been violence against homosexuals. Three men were attacked- I believe it was in Brooklyn- in the Bronx, excuse me. There was an attack against a man at the famous Stonewall Inn. There was also this suicide of a gay student at Rutgers. You say that you don't want to bring harm to homosexuals, but are you afraid that your words might incite someone who, perhaps, isn't as open-minded as you seem to be?
Paladino directly criticized his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, in his answer, and turned the question around on his interviewer. This is where Lauer responded with his non-denial concerning his own children:
PALADINO: I hope not. I was trying to define myself very clearly, as opposed to Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Cuomo took his daughters a gay pride parade. Is that normal? Would you do it? Would you take your children to a gay pride parade?
LAUER: I think that you can probably expose your children to a lot of different things-
LAUER: And help them decide- make their own decision.
PALADINO: I don't think it is proper for them to go there and watch a couple of grown men grind against each other. I don't think that's proper. I think it's disgusting.
For the record, Matt Lauer's children are 9, 7, 3 years old, based on a November 28, 2006 article from People magazine announcing the birth of the anchor's third child, Thijs (pronounced "Tice").
Near the end of the interview, the anchor raised a common mainstream media question towards conservatives/Republicans. In response, Paladino went on the attack against his political opponents and against the media:
LAUER: Speaking to the voters of New York who are trying to make up their minds in this race now, and have just heard these comments you made this weekend, can you speak to them and tell them that you will be a governor for all the people of New York, equally and open-minded about who you'll include in your administration and who you govern?
PALADINO: I say that, unequivocally, I will be the governor for all the people of the State of New York, and I've never moved off of that position. And this was an attempt by me- and yes, it got confused, but this is a clear illustration-
LAUER: Do you regret the remark?
PALADINO: No, I don't regret the remark. The remarks that I made- I believe in, okay? The remark that was deleted is nobody else's business. It was deleted- it was put in there by somebody and I'm not responsible for that. I'm only responsible for what I say, and I have always stood behind everything that I said. It started with anti-Semitic- and yes, I met with 200 Jewish leaders yesterday and they embrace me, and they don't believe that I'm anti-Semitic. It then went to racism. He's accused me of racism, and the people in Buffalo- all the people in Buffalo- they came out and they said he's not a racist. And now, we're into phase three and the press keeps doing Andrew's work. But I'm fine with that. We'll keep vetting out issues, okay? And we're going to have some fun next week at the debate, because Andrew has to account for himself.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos and David Muir also tried to connect Paladino to attacks on New York City homosexuals on Monday's Good Morning America, while CBS's Harry Smith asked the Republican a very similar question to Lauer's on The Early Show: "You don't feel like you've added any fuel to the fire of gay hatred by saying what you said?"