Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate for New York governor, has apologised for his “poorly chosen words” on homosexuality.

Gay groups were furious at a speech he made to Jewish Orthodox leaders in Brooklyn on Sunday, in which he claimed that children were being “brainwashed” by homosexuality.

He added that children who grow up straight and marry the opposite sex are “much better off and much more successful” and that homosexuality is not a “valid” option.

Mr Paladino, whose campaign is struggling, apologised yesterday for the phrasing of his comments.

He said he had cut one sentence from the pre-written speech, about gay people being “dysfunctional”.

He added that he should edited more of the speech and asked for forgiveness.

In an email, he said: “I am neither perfect, nor a career politician. I have made mistakes in this campaign – I have made mistakes all my life – as we all have. I am what I am – a simple man who works hard, trusts others, and loves his family and fears for the future of our state.”

He also asked gay rights leaders for guidance to “to educate me on how to better represent my support for the rights of all citizens.”

Earlier this week, he said he was “100 per cent” in favour of gay rights, except for gay marriage.

During Sunday’s speech, Mr Paladino made reference to his gay nephew, Jeff Hannon, who works on his election campaign.

Mr Hannon, 23, told the New York Post yesterday that he was “very offended” by his uncle’s remarks but refused to comment further.

On Monday, Mr Paladino was criticised by his Democrat rival, Andrew Cuomo, and by out gay city council speaker Christine Quinn.

The state Democratic Party said his apology was a “non-apology”, two days late.

Ms Quinn also rejected the apology, saying: “If he truly wanted to apologise he would pick up the phone and call any number of people from the LGBT community who could tell him why his remarks over the past several days, including but not limited to those made over the weekend, are so outrageous and dangerous.”

In another twist, it was reported today that Mr Paladino, a property developer, once rented buildings to two gay bars in downtown Buffalo.