Carl Paladino, the New York governor candidate who said children were being “brainwashed” by homosexuality, has lost the support of a prominent rabbi after apologising for his comments.

The Republican apologised on Tuesday for his “poorly chosen remarks” made at a meeting of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn last weekend.

His speech was written with the help of Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who yesterday said he would not support Mr Paladino’s campaign “until such time as he straightens out”, the New York Times reports.

Addressing a news conference on Fifth Avenue, Rabbi Levin, who represents an umbrella organisation of ultra-Orthodox clerics, said he had been given no warning that Mr Paladino would apologise.

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” he said. “While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

During his Sunday speech, Mr Paladino 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.

In his subsequent apology, he promised to fight for gay rights if elected and called on gay rights leaders to “educate” him.

Mr Paladino’s nephew and campaign assistant, Jeff Hannon, is gay. He told the New York Post he was “very offended” by his uncle’s remarks.

Rabbi Levin suggested that Mr Paladino has apologised because his family pressured him to.

“He discovered now he has a gay nephew?” the rabbi said. “Mazel tov! We’ll make a coming-out party!”

Rabbi Levin also claimed that “militant gays” had written Mr Paladino’s apology.

When asked yesterday what he thought of the rabbi’s criticism, Mr Paladino said: “We’re on message. That’s it.”