Mayoral candidate Louie Welch, running on a "return-to-morality" platform, set off a political firestorm with his inadvertently broadcast remark that part of his plan to stop the spread of AIDS was to "shoot the queers."
The former Houston mayor said Thursday night that he had not realized the microphone at KTRK-TV was turned on and that his remark was broadcast to viewers just before an evening newscast.
"I apologize, but I don't think I had the gay vote anyway," he said.
Attorney Thomas J. Coleman Jr., vice president of the Gay Political Caucus, said Welch should withdraw from the race.
"To have somebody like that as mayor of the fourth-largest city in the nation would be an embarrassment," Coleman said.
When contacted later at his home, Welch, said the remark had been off the cuff.
"We were horsing around. I inadvertently pulled a Reagan," he said. "I'm in good company. Others also thought they were speaking into dead mikes."
The blooper happened just before the KTRK Channel 13 newscast at 5 p.m. as the headline stories were being announced.
The camera showed tape of Welch at an event at a restaurant and the announcer said: "Mayoral candidate Louie Welch has announced his plan for dealing with AIDS in Houston. We'll talk live with the candidate about his four-part answer to combating the spread of that disease."
A reporter then announced a story about a helicopter crash. Because of a technical mistake, that broadcast was interrupted by Welch's voice saying, "One of them is to shoot the queers." Welch was not seen on TV at the time.
The Houston businessman, campaigning against Mayor Kathy Whitmire, has won unsought support from the so-called Straight Slate anti-gay coalition. Welch has centered his campaign on what he says is the government's responsibility to foster a return to conventional morality and life styles.