NEW YORK—Senate candidate Alan Keyes stridently defended his statements about the vice president's gay daughter Wednesday even as Illinois Republican leaders expressed reactions ranging from dismay to disgust.
Keyes told a New York-based satellite radio station Monday that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism." In response, the show's host asked if Mary Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, was a "selfish hedonist." Keyes replied: "Of course she is."
None of the state Republican leaders at the breakfast went so far as to say Keyes should bow out of the race. But several expressed dissatisfaction with how he's handled himself on the campaign trail. They want Keyes to talk more about job creation and health care and less about divisive social issues, such as gay rights and abortion.
"I wish those comments weren't made," said state Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican who pushed to get Keyes on the ballot. "Those were personal comments and better kept to himself."
Keyes blamed the media for personalizing his comments about Mary Cheney.
"Do I know whether or not the daughter of the Cheneys is engaging in such acts? It is not for me to know," Keyes said. "I only know the argument I have made. It is for others to draw the conclusion."
Judy Baar Topinka, the state party chairwoman, called Keyes' remarks about Cheney "idiotic."
"I think it's nasty, and I don't like nasty politics," she said. "You don't pick on people's kids. Kids are off limits."
State Rep. Tom Cross, the House Republican leader, joked about the length of Keyes' lease on his Calumet City apartment.
"My suspicion is we will see and hear from candidate Keyes for the next 60 days, and after that he'll probably be out of Illinois," Cross said.
In Chicago, Keyes' opponent, Democrat Barack Obama, said the Republican's comments were inappropriate.
He also joked with reporters about the drop in media attention toward him lately: "I miss you all. Everybody's following around the other guy all the time. He's so much more fun."