Rick Perry has backed away from his comparison between homosexuality and alcoholism, admitting he got “deflected” onto a “contentious issue”.

Perry arose controversy last week, when he made the comparison at an event in San Fransicso.

He had said: “Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that.

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

However, after admonishment from New Jersey governor Chris Christie and newly-out actress Ellen Page, Perry has now backed down from the comparison.

Appearing on CNBC, host Joe Kernan challenged Perry on the comments, saying: “I have a really high bar for what I would take offence to, but that would exceed the bar for me on being an offensive comment.

“I don’t think gay marriage leads to cirrhosis of the liver or domestic violence or DWIs. I don’t see how that’s similar.”

Perry backed away from defending his comments, saying: “I understand how people have different opinions about that.

“This conversation for me has always been about the state’s right to make decisions on this host of issues.”

He continued: “We got deflected off onto this other issue, which is frankly a very contentious issue” – before attempting to change the subject, adding: “so I go back and talk about how the focus needs to be on creating jobs….”

When asked whether still he believed homosexuality was a choice, he said: “I don’t know, we’ll leave that to the psychologists.”