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The Schmooze

Paladino’s Apology Sticks in Rabbi Levin’s Throat

New York gubernatorial hopeful Republican Carl. P. Paladino should be more relieved than distressed after Rabbi Yehuda Levin loudly, publicly — and colorfully — renounced his support for Paladino’s New York gubernatorial bid, telling the New York Times that the GOP nominee “folded like a cheap camera” in the face of backlash over remarks about gays. Paladino’s crime was apologizing for stating that children shouldn’t be “brainwashed” into believing homosexuality was “valid.”

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” Rabbi Levin 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.”

The romance between the rabbi and the gubernatorial hopeful was short-lived but damaging. Not content with simply inviting the candidate to his congregation and yeshiva over Sukkot, Rabbi Levin says he himself wrote Paladino’s remarks. Paladino’s campaign manager said that he “reviewed” the speeches but failed to identify the “furor the comments would create.”

A simple Google search might have informed the Paladino campaign that “furor” is Rabbi Levin’s specialty. Heading a clutch of extreme right-wing rabbis called the “Rabbinical Alliance of America” and obsessively crusades against homosexuality and grabs headlines with deliberately outrageous statements. The last time Levin hit the headlines was when he declared that then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was not kosher. Before that, he blamed the earthquake in Haiti and other natural disasters on gay sex.

Somehow, the Paladino camp managed to remain blissfully unaware of Levin’s dicey reputation when they welcomed his support, accepted his invitation to speak, along with his speechwriting services. Paladino lambasted opponent Andrew Cuomo for participating in a gay rights march and made the “brainwashed” statement Cuomo quickly condemned the remarks, and Paladino apologized for them, pointing out that his gay nephew was working on his campaign. Upon hearing this, Levin, in a news conference held — of all places — in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said he felt “betrayed,” that Paladino’s apology was clearly written by “militant gays” and as for the nephew, he said “Mazel tov! We’ll make a coming-out party!”

It’s all enough to make Paladino supporters wish that Levin’s bite of kosher salami had been just a little bit bigger…

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