The Republican candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino, has denied he is a bigot after criticising homosexuality.

Speaking at a meeting of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn on Sunday, Mr Paladino warned that children were being “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality is valid.

Reading from a prepared speech, he said: “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.”

Of homosexuality, he said: “That’s not how God created us and that’s not the example that we should be showing our children.”

Mr Paladino, who had three children with his wife and one with his mistress, said that children who grow up straight and marry the opposite sex are “much better off and much more successful.”

“I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option,” he said.

Later, he added: “I oppose the homosexual agenda, whether they call it marriage, civil unions or domestic partnership. Marriage is between a man and a woman – period.”

According to one report, another version of the speech said that there was “nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual”.

The speech was written by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who has attacked gay rights and abortion in the past.

Today, Mr Paladino gave interviews in which he stood by Sunday’s remarks and said that he and his wife had once happened upon a Pride march in Toronto.

He said: “It was a bunch of very extreme type people in bikini-type outfits grinding at each other and doing these gyrations and I certainly wouldn’t let my young children see that.”

However, he claimed that many gay people, including his nephew, work for him in his real estate business and that he is not a bigot.

He added that anti-gay discrimination was “ugly” and “horrible”.

“My feelings on homosexuality are unequivocal,” he said on the Today show. “I have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. My only reservation is marriage.”

His words were condemned by his rival Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat candidate.

“Mr Paladino’s statement displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality,” said Mr Cuomo’s spokesman, Josh Vlasto.

Republican state attorney general candidate Dan Donovan also criticised Mr Paladino.

“Any statements of this nature are offensive,” Mr Donovan said. “We should be fostering a dialogue on tolerance. These statements do not achieve that, and I do not agree with them.”